Although we have to wait a few more weeks for Olympics fever to hit its peak, Cleveland is hosting its own international sports competition this week.
The Continental Cup International Youth Sports Festival kicks off this Thursday, July 5th and continues through the weekend with a showcase of global athletic competition and cultural exchange.
Now in its 7th year, the Continental Cup is presented by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Cleveland Clinic Sports Health with a mission of creating a large, vibrant, annual civic event in Cleveland that celebrates internationalism, youth diversity and sportsmanship.
And they’ve done a great job so far towards achieving this goal — in 2010 and 2011, the National Association of Sports Commissions honored the Continental Cup as its Outstanding Locally Created Event. At this year’s event, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission expects 3500 athletes from 13 different countries to participate in the games.
With the international teams growing by almost 20% this year, athletes from Aruba, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Australia, Philippines, Guam, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria are slated to attend, including some of the most elite teams in their sport like Colombia’s Club America de Cali soccer team.
The Continental Cup starts things off with its first day of competition and Opening Ceremonies on Thursday. From 6:30-9pm at Cleveland Browns Stadium, players, their families and the Cleveland public are invited to a free party with a parade of nations, live entertainment, food, soccer freestylers, games and inflatables. And in case you don’t get your fill on the Fourth of July, the evening culminates with a fireworks show.
These Opening Ceremonies celebrate 4 days of competitions in soccer, baseball and basketball, as well as a variety of activities for athletes like college seminars at Baldwin Wallace University and outings to Friday’s Indians game. The AC Milan, Cleveland Indians Charities and Cleveland Cavaliers Continental Cups will give athletes a unique chance to not only compete against some of the top teams from across the U.S. and world, but also experience other cultures and explore a bit of Cleveland.
To travel to London for the 2012 Olympics, you’d have to pay a King’s ransom. Fortunately this weekend you can enjoy a tournament that similarly celebrates cultural diversity – for free – by just hopping in your car.
A schedule and full details for all Continental Cup events can be found here. And to stay up-to-date throughout the weekend, follow @ContinentalCup and the #ContinentalCup2012 hashtag on Twitter or the Continental Cup Facebook page.
Note: Photos of last year’s Continental Cup are courtesy of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.