The National Veterans Golden Age Games are coming to Hawaii this week for the first time in 25 years, drawing more than 900 competitors and scoring big points with the island’s economy.
A record 933 participants were signed up as of Monday for the games, a Veterans Affairs official said.
The VA games run Thursday through Tuesday and include swimming, cycling, golf, shot put, discus, 10-meter air rifle, table tennis, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine-ball pool, bowling, checkers and croquet for veterans 55 and older.
A news release from the Hawai‘i Convention Center said participants and family members add up to more than 1,400 individuals, translating into more than $6.6 million in anticipated state revenue.
Hotels will benefit from more than 11,200 room nights with events being held at the convention center, Waikiki Beach, the University of Hawaii and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, among other locations.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said he is pleased for other reasons that Honolulu is hosting the games.
"They are an important part of ensuring that our aging veterans are taking care of their physical health so that they can continue to serve as examples of bravery and perseverance for our younger generations," Inouye said in a release.
Inouye, a Medal of Honor recipient who lost his arm in War II, said sporting events helped him with his injuries.
"As I recovered from my war wounds at the VA hospital in Battle Creek, Mich., physical activity and athletic competition were vital to restoring my sense of self and preparing me for life after the Army," he said.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a Kauai native and former chief of staff of the Army, will deliver an address during the opening ceremony for the games at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fort DeRussy’s Kuroda Field.
The VA said the Golden Age Games are the premier senior rehabilitation program in the United States, and it is the only national multievent sports and recreational competition program that is designed to improve the quality of life for veterans 55 and older, including those with a range of abilities and disabilities.
Tammy Duckworth, VA assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs and a McKinley High School and University of Hawaii graduate, said she was looking "forward to showing our nation’s heroes the aloha state."
Veterans age 55 or older who receive health care at any VA medical facility are eligible to compete in the National Veterans Golden Age Games.
Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka, also a World War II veteran, will serve as honorary co-chairmen of the games. A schedule of events can be found at www.va.gov/opa/speceven/gag/ScheduleofEvents.pdf.