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Downtown Olympic Celebration lights up the streets Friday

By: Jessica Allison and Megan Wood The Gazette
July 25, 2013 Updated: July 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm
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Chris Porter with GE Johnson rakes smoothes out some of the 190 tons of sand brought onto Tejon Street Friday morning, July 26, 2013, to construct a 46 x 72 feet beach volleyball pit for Friday's Downtown Olympic Celebration. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

They call it the 2nd Annual Downtown Olympic Celebration, but it's also a tribute to the 12th Annual Rocky Mountain State Games, which kicked off last weekend.

Either way, downtown Colorado Springs will be hopping Friday night with food, activities, performances, a torch passing and an expected 15,000-20,000 people.

That's the size of the crowd that attended last year's Downtown Olympic Celebration, which televised the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics on a 15-by-27-foot high-definition video screen.

There won't be a giant screen this year, but there will be plenty to do and see at the event, including a beach volleyball court complete with 190 tons of sand. It all starts rolling at 5 p.m. Friday, at the intersection of Colorado Avenue and Tejon Street.

"There's something for everybody to take part in," said Mike Moran, spokesman for the Colorado Springs Sport Corporation, which is a major sponsor of the event.

At 6:30 p.m., a torch leaves Antlers Park, carried by Miles, the Bronco's mascot. It's followed by Runners of the Color in Motion, which touch light torches every 50 meters. And at approximately 7:15 p.m., 2012 U.S. figure skating pairs champions and 2014 Olympic medal hopefuls Caydee Denney and John Coughlin light the central torch and Mayor Steve Bach declares the Rocky Mountain State Games officially open.

Olympic athletes are also scheduled to make an appearance, including Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, 2012 national figure skating pairs champion and 2014 Olympic medal hopefuls. There's a BMX show, a Flying Aces freestyle ski demonstration, an archery demonstration and team volleyball play on the downtown court. And a lot more.

Many of the events are Olympic sports, but some are unique to the state games, including arm wrestling, dog agility and orienteering. The games continue through the weekend, and Moran estimates about 6,000 athletes will compete. So far, 7,737 athletes have registered.

And while it may not be an Olympic year, but the Downtown Olympic Celebration also anticipates the 2014 Winter Olympics, which runs in February in Sochi, Russia.

"The chances of being able to hold a downtown celebration in February is risky because of the weather, so this salutes the whole Olympic movement in our city," Moran said.

The 2012 event fun, said Mark Jones, United States Olympic Committee director of communications, and something more. "It's an opportunity to continue a tradition for an event that exposed a lot of kids and families to the Olympic sports," he said. (The USOC is not hosting the event, but is a participating sponsor.)

Country music will also take centerstage with performances by "American Idol" contestant Lauren Alaina as well as Jon Pardi and Dakota Bradley.

And if it rains? The party will apparently go on.

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Contact Jessica Allison at jessica.allison@gazette.com and Megan Wood at megan.wood@gazette.com

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