Australia has a strong and proud history of hosting international sporting events – two Olympics (1956-Melbourne, 2000-Sydney), four Commonwealth Games (1938-Sydney, 1962-Perth, 1982-Brisbane, 2006-Melbourne), the Goodwill Games (2002-Brisbane) and the World Masters Games (1994-Brisbane, 2002-Melbourne, 2009-Sydney).
On with the games
From 10-18 October 2009, approximately 28,200 participants (the biggest attendance ever) from more than 100 countries are competing across 28 sports at 72 venues throughout the city, including many Olympic sites.
The World Masters Games are the largest multi-sport event in the world, attracting up to three times more competitors than the Olympic Games. Events are open to people of all abilities and most ages. Competitors span a 77-year age range, from the youngest, 24-year-old Canadian swimmer Facundo Chernikoff, to the oldest, 101-year-old Australian lawn bowler Reg Trewin.
Participants represent themselves, not their country Anyone can take part with the only selection criteria being the minimum age requirement for a particular sport. Some former champions compete, but others are recreational sport newcomers.
Competitors include royalty (Prince Frederik of Denmark – sailing) and former Olympic champions (Murray Rose, Geoff Heugl, Andrew Pine – swimming). But the Games are more about everyday people who just love to get out there and compete in their chosen events.
Of great interest is the age factor of some of the competitors. Several 100+ stalwarts have shown they still have the ability to compete. Australian great-grandmother Ruth Frith, aged 100, and the oldest female competitor at the Games, threw 4.07 metres (13.3 feet) to take the shot put gold medal. She was the only competitor in the women’s 100 to 104 aged shot-put event.
How wonderful that 90 year old Olga Kotelko from Vancouver won her age group in both the 100-metre and shot put. She only started competing at 77 and broke the world record with her 5.64 metre (18.5 feet) throw and ran her race in 23.95 seconds. New Zealander Marcia Petley, 80, won her age 100-metres in 21.09 seconds after defying doctor’s orders.
Competitors have traveled from all parts of the globe for the Games, but Carl Heberl, 69, created great interest by walking to Sydney from his home in Gympie, Queensland, 1,100 kilometres (683 miles) away as preparation for his four athletic events, including a half marathon.
Sporting events will be staged at a range of venues throughout Sydney. Archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, canoe and kayak, 3 disciplines of cycling, diving, soccer, golf, hockey, lawn bowls, netball, orienteering, rowing, Rugby Union, sailing, 3 disciplines of shooting, softball, squash, surf lifesaving, swimming, table tennis, tennis, touch football, beach and indoor volleyball, water polo, and weightlifting are the events.
With so many international visitors in Sydney for these games, there are various social events to be enjoyed:
Opening Ceremony: ANZ Stadium (11 October)
Closing Ceremony: Darling Harbour (18 October)
Masters Gala Ball: Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre (15 October)
Opera Australia “The Mikado”: Sydney Opera House (12 October)
Sydney Olympic Park Club House: Brewery Bar (10-17 October)
Health & Lifestyle Expo: The Dome (7-11 October)
The Perth Mint in Australia has issued not more than 5,000 commemorative World Masters Games fifty cent coins. These will obviously be snatched up by collectors and provide some participants with a unique souvenir to take back to their home countries.
World Masters Games history
The event is held once every four years and was previously hosted by Toronto (Canada) in 1985 with 8,300 competitors, AArhus (Denmark) in 1989 with 5,280 competitors, Brisbane (Australia) in 1994 with 23,000 competitors, Portland (USA) in 1998 with 12,500 competitors, Melbourne (Australia) in 2002 with 25,000 competitors, Edmonton (Canada) in 2005 with 22,300 competitors. In the sector of traditional sports, the World Masters Games are second to the Olympic Games as the international event with the highest number of participants. Similar events are organised on continental, European and national levels: the European Masters Games (the next games will be staged in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy in 2011), the Asia-Pacific Masters Games, the Pan-American Masters Games, the category World Championships, etc.
What is great about events like the World Masters Games is that people of all nations come together in the spirit of fun and competition. The weather is favorable (well, almost – except for a few storms) and the influx of competitors and tourists is tipped to add more than $50 million to the New South Wales economy.
With the motto “fit, fun and forever young” – these Games will unite the world in an atmosphere of sport and friendship.
The 2013 World Masters Games will be held in Torino, Italy. The organizing committee there hope to attract 50,000 competitors which seems feasible considering that travel distances in Europe are shorter than say from Europe and America to Australia.