Originally created 07/24/99

Heat prompts more precautions

Heat continued to be a major player Friday in the Georgia Games Championships as the competition awarded its first medals -- in most cases.

Georgia Games officials are making additional preparations for the hot conditions as temperatures are expected to reach the mid-90s today, with Augusta remaining under a heat advisory.

Officials placed additional water stations at events, particularly at today's 5-kilometer road race and in-line skating competitions, said John Stafford, the Games' emergency management coordinator.

In addition, the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will have a pumper truck parked along the footrace's course, spraying a fine mist on the competitors, Stafford said.

More tents were pitched at outdoor events to provide shady spots for athletes and spectators Organizers also procured special fans that blow cool mists at athletes, he said.

Games officials also instructed event organizers about possible changes to some sports to help athletes combat the heat, he said. For example, a soccer game could be divided into four quarters, instead of two longer halves, to provide more water and rest breaks, Stafford said.

"We are prepared to do that if necessary, but it would be premature to do that right now," he said. "You can implement that decision immediately. "That's a decision that we can make as the day progresses."

Three athletes -- two at the track-and-field competition, and one at the baseball tournament -- were treated for minor heat-related problems Thursday, when the temperature reached 98 degrees and the heat index climbed to 108.

Several golfers at the competition at Augusta Municipal Golf Course did not start their rounds or withdrew because of the heat.

The heat index -- which factors the effect of humidity into the equation -- is expected to reach from 105 to 110 degrees today, said Dan Miller, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C. He said there is a 40 percent chance of an afternoon thunderstorm.

During Friday's competition, a couple of glitches kept some athletes from receiving their medals.

Equipment failure prevented several track-and-field medals from being awarded Friday. Computer problems delayed the distribution of medals for more than six hours.

Some of the athletes opted to leave the host site, Burke County High School, and retrieve their winnings today. Waiting in 100-degree July heat chased off many medalists who chose not to stick around.

The first medals of the competition were awarded at the rhythmic gymnastics competition at Augusta State Athletic Complex.

Each of the four gymnasts from the Golden Isles Rhythmic Gymnastics academy exited the complex with what amounted to Mr. T starter kits. Nicole Falken's five gold medals paced the contingent from Brunswick, Ga. All told, the quartet of preteens accepted 14 golds and six silvers in the first medal ceremony of the 1999 Georgia Games Championships.

"These are pretty heavy," 10-year-old Nicole said.

Competition will get heavy today during the busiest day of the Georgia Games, with 42 events scheduled. More than half of the events will be outdoors.

But the heat isn't fazing some people's enthusiasm for the amateur sports festival. Joseph Watkins drove from Atlanta, then suffered through stifling heat at Burke County High School, to watch the track-and-field competition.

"It's really hot, but I'll sacrifice the heat to watch some of the state's top sprinters," he said.

Jimmy DeButts and Brandon Haddock can be reached at (706) 724-0851.


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