Honolulu is expected to draw a record number of participants to a national military veterans sports competition next spring.
The 2011 National Veterans Golden Age Games will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Honolulu from May 26 to 31.
About 1,000 contestants are expected to face off in competitive events for veterans 55 or older, surpassing the current record of 780 competitors set this year in Des Moines, Iowa, event director Dewayne Vaughan said yesterday.
The games give the veterans a purpose for training, often leading to less medication and fewer doctor visits. It has evolved from an event to get people out of nursing homes into a competitive sporting event and serves as a qualifier for the National Senior Games.
"The goal is to get people actively involved in healthy lifestyles, which includes cycling, swimming, exercise," Rick Velasquez, Hawaii coordinator for the games, said yesterday. "But it also includes people socializing in a positive way and it also includes whatever you’re capable of."
Five years ago Vaughan envisioned bringing the games to Hawaii for the event’s 25th anniversary.
Holding the event in Honolulu will allow the program to reach veterans in Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam. Since the games began in 1985, only one known Hawaii resident has participated, Vaughan said.
A team of 38 Hawaii residents is preparing for the 2011 competition, Velasquez said.
James Hastings, director of the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System, said more than 100,000 veterans live in Hawaii.
"Anything we can do to remind the community of the sacrifices these veterans have made is good," he said. "It’s good for the community, it’s good for the veterans."
The event is expected to bring about 2,000 people, including family members, to the islands.