Originally created 07/25/99

Many S.C. athletes are competing



In the first -- and perhaps only -- year competitors from other states will participate at the Georgia Games, the results have been decidedly mixed.

Many South Carolinians are competing in the amateur sports festival, but Tennesseans, who also were invited, stayed home, Georgia Games organizers said.

"I was impressed with the number of athletes coming from South Carolina," said Nick Gailey, executive director of the Georgia State Games Commission, who said he scanned entry forms to determine the level of interest from other states. "Every now and then, you might see one from Tennessee."

This year's Games are the first opened to competitors from outside states. South Carolina and Tennessee athletes were allowed to compete because their states do not have similar championships.

Augusta's location along the South Carolina line also influenced the decision to allow residents of that state to compete, Gailey said.

"You have to be brain-dead not to realize that these communities do things together," said Gailey, who estimated that 10 percent of medalists during Saturday's road races were South Carolinians.

Games officials won't know how many non-Georgians competed until early next week, when the final count of athletes is completed, said Amy Alter, public relations director for the Games.

Before the Games, organizers estimated that 500 to 900 athletes from outside Georgia would compete. But officials did not have a goal for outside participation, Gailey said.

"These are the Georgia Games, and they are for Georgians," he said. "We had no target, and I didn't have any idea what would happen."

Even if participation from neighboring states was high, it is unlikely that they will be invited to next year's Games, Mr. Gailey said. The move would require a change in state law and national rules for such competitions.

"This goes against the national charter," he said. "The only reason it was approved nationally was because South Carolina doesn't have any Games."

Now, South Carolina is attempting to revive its own Games, which failed after the state's first attempt two years ago, Gailey said. Tennessee also is organizing its own championships, he said.

Brandon Haddock can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.