Greensboro will host AAU Junior Olympic Games
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GREENSBORO — The city has added another event to its “Tournament Town” résumé.
A big event.
Greensboro will host the 53rd annual Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games this summer, a 10-day festival featuring 20 sports for boys and girls ages 4 to 19.
The AAU Junior Olympics is expected to draw an estimated 16,000 athletes and 2,500 coaches and account for roughly 34,000 hotel room nights from July 24 through Aug. 3.
“This will be the largest sporting event (in terms of participants) we’ve ever brought to Greensboro and Guilford County,” said Henri Fourrier, president and CEO of the Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “… We’re really excited about it. We feel a little like the dog that chases cars and actually caught one. This is going to be big.”
The centerpiece of the event is AAU’s national track and field championships, which will be held at N.C. A&T’s Irwin Belk Track and draw more than 10,000 of the athletes.
Field hockey will be held at Wake Forest’s Kentner Stadium, and the rest of the competitions will take place in Greensboro, with lacrosse at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex and all other sports at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex and Greensboro Aquatics Center.
“It’s a good location,” said Paul Campbell, the national chairman for the Junior Olympic Games. “First of all, we have to have a track. And not just any track. You look around the country, and how many tracks are in stadiums that will seat 15,000 to 20,000 people? You don’t see them anymore. …
“There’s other cities that would love to get this event, but they’re harder to get to. (Greensboro) is in a position where you have three major airports within an hour-and-a-half. That helps, especially when you consider 600 or 700 people will be flying in from California and 1,200 from Texas.”
Campbell is in his 27th year as chairman of the event, and he led a site visit in the city today along with AAU Track & Field chairman Charles Oliver. The group took another look at facilities and met with A&T officials to discuss logistics for the track meet.
Greensboro is the newest part of a five-city rotation that takes turns hosting the AAU Junior Olympics. The event goes to Norfolk, Va., next year, followed by Houston, Detroit and Des Moines, Iowa.
If all goes well this summer, the event will return to Greensboro in 2024.
“The premise is if we do good the first year, if we get a good report card, then we’ll get it back in five years,” Fourrier said. “… The success we had with USA Track & Field certainly gave (AAU) the notion we could put this on, especially with the facilities we have. I think we’re going to surprise their athletes when they come here, because all of the facilities we have are within 20 or 30 minutes apart. Some of (AAU’s) previous destinations have been really spread out, with (venues) two hours apart.”
AAU is a hands-on organization, Fourrier said, relying less on local volunteers than other groups.
“We have a 180-page contract, so it’s all spelled out,” Campbell said. “The cities provide the facilities, and we make it happen. We’ll bring in 220 of our people to work just the track meet. And the other events, there’s another 175 people we bring in to work with the local hosts and volunteers.”
Opening ceremonies for the AAU Junior Olympics are set for July 29 (before the track meet) and include a parade of athletes organized by states, modeled after the Olympic Games’ parade of nations.
“We started the same year as the Super Bowl, and we’re still going strong,” Campbell said. “… For most of these kids, this is their national championship. It’s amazing to me to see the number of kids that do this year after year after year.”