State Games lights the flame tonight at Ray
By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
June 20, 2003
The pagentry and sounds of the opening ceremonies of the State Games of Mississippi returns to Meridian High's stately Ray Stadium on Friday night.
Tonight's ceremonies, which is expected to have some 10,000 spectators and athletes on hand, will mark the opening of the 12th annual State Games. The event is Mississippi's only statewide amateur Olympic-style sportsfest. Gates will open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30.
State Games Exectutive Director April Luke and public relations coordinator Leah Reed are excited that the opening ceremony is here.
Much like the Olympic parade, the athletes can enter Ray Stadium under a banner reflecting their hometown. Leading the athletes into the stadium will be the 2003 State Games torchbearers in 66-year-old William Calvert of Gulfport and 13-year-old Lydia Rice of Tupelo.
Calvert and Rice were selected last year as the 2002 State Games Male and Female BellSouth/Cingular Wireless Sportsmen of the Year.
Calvert is a three-year veteran of the games and participated in four events winning gold medals in 2-mile walk, summer biathlon, the 100-meter dash in track and two golds in canoe/kayak.
Rice won three golds and one silver in track and field in the 2002 games. One of her golds was a record-setting performance for the 13-14-year-old division in the high jump at 4-feet-9 inches.
Fans and athletes alike will be entertained while the parade gets underway. Keith Hunter and the Hot Wings will perform.
Once the parade has concluded, the crowd will listen to a set of speakers which include three former Olympians in Mildrette Netter, Willeye White and George Wilson.
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith will give the welcoming address.
Netter, who won a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City in the 4×100 meter relay, will give the coaches and parent's oath.
White will give the officials oath while Wilson will be the keynote speaker.
Following the oaths, a brilliant fireworks display set to music, will cap the evening. The opening ceremonies for the State Games of Mississippi is sponsored by Rush Foundation Hospital.