Senior Olympics Begin Sept. 14

Senior Olympics Begin Sept. 14

The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics draws more than 600 competitors to 12 different venues.

Come Friday, Sept. 20, Betsy Bailey will be pool side at Lee District Park cheering on the competitors and taking photographs. Bailey is a swimmer herself, but as the volunteer co-chair of the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics, the Fairfax Station resident is content to allow others shine during the course of the nine-day event.

"If I was going to compete, it would be in swimming, But I was the swimming coordinator when I started," said Bailey, who began her involvement with the Senior Olympics in the early 1980s as a parks and recreation staff member for the City of Falls Church. "Maybe one day. Right now, I just enjoy making it possible for everyone else to have a good time."

This year, the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics turns 20 and expects to draw more than 600 competitors to 12 competition sites.

"IF YOU WIN HERE, you can go onto the state competition," said Mitzi Taylor, staff co-chair and employee of the City of Falls Church Parks and Recreation Department. "A majority of those who win here will go onto the state. You don't have to qualify here, but many who do well figure why not give the state competition a try."

While, those who still enjoy the thrill of competition may take the event seriously, it is not a requirement.

"Some people are out there for the fun. Some are there because they like the competition," Taylor said. "We have some ladies who come out because their friends are there. They like playing tennis or shuffleboard and their girlfriend is doing it, so they sign up."

The events, which range from mental strategy competitions such as chess and cards games, to contests of skill such as pool, yo-yo and archery, to games requiring some athleticism such as basketball, bowling, track and field and swimming.

The games are open to residents of the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William that are 50 years old or older as of Dec. 31, 2002.

"It started in 1982-83 to encourage people to try new things. There's no skill required, no cut-off during the competitions," Bailey said. "It started as an arena for people to come out and try things and keep active."

IN THE VEIN of trying new things, pickleball and yo-yo have been added to the competition list.

"Yo-yo is a new thing. We're trying it as an demonstration sport to see if we can get people interested," Bailey said. "We do try to add new activities. Pickleball was added a couple years ago. We have a lot of varied activities."

Also new this year is an awards ceremony and social which takes place at the conclusion of the games. In the past, the event winners received their medals at the competition venues. This time around, all the medals will be handed out at the ceremony.

"We're doing the awards ceremony afterwards, trying something new," Taylor said. "We wanted it to be something special for the competitors, so they could have their families with them. A lot of times, their families couldn't come to the competitions because the events are during the day."

The competition begins Saturday, Sept. 14 and 9:30 a.m. at Falls Church High School with the track and field events. The next day of competition is Tuesday, Sept. 17, with a variety of card games, chess, pool, Frisbee throw, softball throw and softball hit.

Wednesday, Sept. 18, is reserved for shuffleboard, miniature golf, team line dance, table tennis, Rummikub and more chess. More card games, horseshoes and the basketball free throw take place Thursday, Sept. 19.

Swimming and cribbage rule the day, Friday, Sept. 20. Saturday, Sept. 21, will feature archery. Sunday, Sept. 23 is bowling, which had to be rescheduled from Friday.

Pickleball will be played Tuesday, Sept. 24. The final day, Wednesday, Sept. 25, is reserved for golf. A complete list of the events, locations and times is available on-line at