Meridian Star

Sports

May 24, 2014

Meridian set to host State Games

MERIDIAN —

Thousands of Mississippians will flock to the city of Meridian in the coming weeks. They will book hotel rooms, fill restaurants and take in the local scene in preparation for the State Games of Mississippi, marking the 23rd consecutive year Meridian has hosted the event.

The Games began in 1992 with 1,200 athletes competing in over 12 different sports. Since, the Games have expanded to 37 different events, with 26 held in the city of Meridan, and over 5,000 amateur athletes expected to participate this time around.

“The sponsorship has been overwhelming and amazing as always,” Marketing and Directing Director of the Games Krilecia Gianakos said. “We have great community support from the city of Meridian, and overwhelming support from restaurants and food donations.”

The demographic of the age of those participating in the events will range from the age of six-years-old all the way up to adults.

Despite the amateur status of the athletes, Gianakos said the level of competition played is at an extremely high level, and medalists are eligible to go on to compete in the bi-annual State Games of America.

“We really encourage everyone, and beginners, to come out and have fun,” Gianakos said. “You can win some medals, and that’s a great thing, but it’s also just great to have fun and participate and be involved with the community.”

With 35 state games played across the country, Mississippi boasts one of the larger turnouts in the nation.

“The Mississippi State Games are one of the bigger State Games in the country,” Gianakos said. “They are larger than the Georgia games and the New York games. We have tremendous support in this state for the events.”

Additionally, the financial impact felt in the state has proven to be a beneficial aspect of the Games.

“There was an economic impact study done in 2011,”Gianakos said. “(The University of Southern Mississippi) found that $6.5 million of revenue is pumped into the state of Mississippi, and that mostly benefits the city of Meridian.”

The Games are a privately-sponsored, non-profit organization that promotes amateur athletes and a more healthy lifestyle.

“We know that obesity is a problem in the state,” Gianakos said. “This is a great way to promote health and fitness. That’s something Mississippi greatly needs, and the State Games is a great outlet for amateur athletes to come and participate in these sports.

With some events having already taken place, including canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding, the remainder of the events will begin May 29, with the opening ceremony slated for June 20 on the City Hall Lawn in downtown Meridian.

At the end of the day, fun is the name of the game and athletes of all skill levels are encouraged to participate.

“We really encourage everyone, and especially beginners, to come out and have fun,” Gianakos said. “You can win some medals, and that’s a great thing, but it’s also just great to have fun and participate and be involved with the community.”

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