A little jock 'n' roll

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:12 PM ET

A wise man once said the secret to longevity is to keep moving.

The world's largest collection of movers (and occasionally shakers) were welcomed to one of the world's great 'Welcome the World' cities last night.

The opening ceremonies of the 2005 World Masters Games, like the event which is to follow for the next nine days, is a bit of an adjustment from previous welcome the world experiences here.

It was big-time. And it was small-time.

It was slick. And it was down home.

About 35,000 people, evenly divided between athletes and non-athletes, sat in the 60,000-seat stadium which had previously played host to opening ceremonies of the 1978 Commonwealth Games, 1983 Universiade and 2001 World Championships of Athletics.

On one hand it was flabbergasting there were so many people for the games, which are about participating not spectating, about individuals not nations, and a world event which the world isn't watching.

On the other hand, you couldn't help but think what it would have meant for everybody involved if Commonwealth Stadium had been absolutely full.

There was a double fly-past by the Snowbirds, plenty of RCMP in their dress uniforms (although no sign of any other police or security of any sort).

Unlike the disappointing $3-million opening ceremonies disaster of the World Championships of Athletics, this no-budget event did a lot of things right, not the least of which was give the 6,000 or so athletes from outside of Canada a sense of where we are and who we are.

Unlike Edmonton 2001, there was name entertainment with Randy Bachman.

CLASSIC ROCK

"We're the classic rock band. You're the classic jock guys,'' Bachman told the athletes between Taking Care Of Business and You Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet.

A video message from Wayne Gretzky was a nice touch considering he's the athlete who put Edmonton on the map for much of the world.

It was good stuff on the video board, good stuff with pyrotechnics - all in a small-scale but well-produced way.

It was OK.

It was definitely different.

There was no parade of nations.

Instead, on the east side of the stadium, there were thousands of people wearing red, yellow, green, blue and orange shirts.

If all the 21,285 athletes, 528 coaches and managers and 1,535 registered companions from 84 countries entered in the 27 sports had filled the three sections each were assigned in the stands, it would have made a stunning picture. As it was, they filled about two-thirds of the seats and it wasn't picture-perfect.

The yellows featured athletics, bowling, shooting, table tennis and a remarkable 1,000 athletes from orienteering. The reds included 300 Australians who travelled all the way here to play softball. The orange included 100 Brazilians here to compete in rowing. The blue group was highlighted by 2,600 senior soccer players. The green guys included 1,040 swimmers, including 80 wrinkled (hey, they spend a lot of time in the water) synchronized swimmers and 900 triathletes who will be part of the show today at Hawrelak Park at the annual World Cup event here.

The World Masters Games are what they are. They're not to be confused for a big-time sports event. But they're maybe the easiest games to hug.

They're here to compete and then go out and have a beer. If there's a positive drug test here it's going to be for Viagra.

NO DOWNSIDE

There's no downside to this event. Viewed properly, it's a large convention which brings thousands of people to town to spend $30 million or so and interact with a city which has made an international name for itself as a sporting host.

And as for the way Edmonton welcomed this world event last night, let's leave the last word to a Calgarian.

"If tonight is any indication, I'm afraid Edmonton has beat Calgary again,'' said Lt.-Gov. Normie Kwong.


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