The Subway Commonwealth Games, in their 26th year, will offer about 55 sports over the coming months, for athletes of all ages and levels.
it’s one measure of the popularity of the Subway Commonwealth Games of Virginia that as we go to press, the oldest competitor signed up for this year’s Roanoke-based, Olympics-style competitions is an 83-year-old female figure skater, and the youngest is a pair of 5-year-olds , one in figure skating and one in judo.
With close to 10,000 athletes competing in about 55 sports, the amateur festival is an overlooked gem for many who love getting outside and playing as hard as they can.
The Roanoke-based Commonwealth Games (with some events elsewhere in the state) are affiliated with the National Congress of State Games, which has 31 member states, of which Virginia is among the top tier. The Games are based on the Olympics, with gold, silver, and bronze medals and opening ceremonies.
“For both participation numbers and number of sports, we rank in the top eight nationwide,” says Pete Lampman, president of Virginia Amateur Sports, overseer of the games.
Lampman has been with VAS since 1992 and is on the board of the national organization. He has overseen VAS’s growth into many other area events, including the Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon, The Greenway Memory Miler, the Star City Half-Marathon/10K and other running events. And we doubt there is a more living-the-life state director than Lampman, who continues to referee high school basketball games and takes palpable glee in leading various runs on his bicycle.
“I enjoy it and it’s part of the job,” he says of getting outside. “And hey, my wife makes sure I’m out in the yard as much as possible.”
That “part of the job is in perfect synch with the VAS mission, ‘to promote awareness and benefits of physical fitness and healthy lifestyles through sports education, training and competition.’”
This year’s Commonwealth Games begin (though some events occur even earlier), with opening ceremonies on July 17 at Salem Red Sox Stadium. Ceremony events include the Tail Gate Party, Parade of Athletes, lighting of the cauldron, and a guest speaker all to be held at Salem Red Sox Stadium on July 17th. This year’s speaker will be 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games Gold Medal-winning softball pitcher Dot Richardson, who is also an M.D. and has been the Liberty University softball coach since 2013.
Most of the Commonwealth Games events occur during the 3rd week of July, though some are scattered throughout the year. Amateur athletes may be Olympic hopefuls or sports enthusiasts savoring a chance to compete locally. Beginners are also encouraged to compete and with choices in sports from archery, autocross, pickleball and tennis, to rugby and summer snowboarding. The games support the mission of VAS and that of the Commonwealth Games, “Inspiring Wellness & Competition,” while also having an estimated $2-3 million economic impact on the Valley.
The Games are sanctioned by The National Congress of State Games, recognized by Virginia High School League, NCAA & by the United States Olympic Committee as a State Games Participant. According to VAS, over 9,500 athletes competed in the 2014 games, and 2015 is the 26th Anniversary of Virginia Amateur Sports & the Commonwealth Games.