The U.S. Olympic Committee, in partnership with USRowing and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), has secured an international rowing competition in Oklahoma City for October 2007, the organization announced today.
The USA Rowing World Challenge will showcase top international rowing talent from the most competitive teams in the world as they prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games. The event is expected to attract more than 150 international athletes and 50,000 spectators to Oklahoma City for the 10-day event.
The University of Central Oklahoma is the U.S. Olympic Committee's Community Partner in Oklahoma. UCO, the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation and the Chesapeake Boathouse will form the local organizing committee for the upcoming event.
"We're excited about partnering with UCO and USRowing in attaining this international rowing competition next fall," said Jim Scherr, USOC Chief Executive Officer. "We're just two years away from the start of the 2008 Olympic Games, so it's important to provide our athletes with high-level competition in preparation for Beijing and for the U.S. to host world-class events such as this. UCO, Oklahoma City and the Chesapeake Boathouse will be ideal hosts for the world's best rowers."
The USA Rowing World Challenge will be an official Oklahoma Centennial Event and will be headquartered at Oklahoma City's new $3.5 million Chesapeake Boathouse with racing on the newly developed Oklahoma River championship rowing course. The boathouse is home to two collegiate programs, Oklahoma City Universitys varsity crew and the University of Oklahoma club crew.
"We're inviting the top national teams from around the world to compete in Oklahoma City," USRowing Executive Director Glenn Merry said. "It's a preview of what you'll see in the 2008 Olympics in China."
The USA Rowing World Challenge will open with exhibitions by the international teams at the Head of the Oklahoma Regatta presented by Oklahoma City University October 6-7. The international teams will then spend the next week training on the Oklahoma River.
"The Oklahoma River offers an excellent venue for intense training, and it's a unique opportunity for these teams to size up their international competition going into the 2008 Olympics," said Mike Knopp, executive director of the Chesapeake Boathouse.
The week of training will culminate with the USA Rowing World Challenge, which will blend traditional 2,000-meter racing with intense 400-meter super sprints. Organizers also plan to unveil new virtual imaging technology designed to make rowing more exciting and accessible to spectators, and will include night racing as a unique element of the competition.
The 10-day event will close with international athletes joining Oklahomans in celebrating the state's 100th anniversary at the Oklahoma Centennial Parade on October 14.
"The Oklahoma Centennial Parade is one of the centerpieces of our state's two-year centennial celebration, and we couldn't be more pleased to have athletes from around the world joining us," said J. Blake Wade, executive director of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission.
"Oklahoma City is proud to host this premiere event, which will be yet another showcase for the renaissance going on here," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. "It is fitting for a city that in recent months has hosted some of the world's greatest athletes in basketball, wrestling, softball and gymnastics, to host the world's greatest rowers. It hasn't been that long since Oklahoma City University staged the city's first major rowing event on the Oklahoma River, and so the rapid progress we've made is a testament to the ambitions of OCU, the rowing community, the River Trust, and the University of Central Oklahoma. I commend them for their hard work, and I thank the USOC and USRowing for the confidence they're showing in us.
The UCO campus is currently providing three training courts, conditioning equipment, office space, and room and board for the U.S. Mens National Sitting Volleyball Team, as it prepares to compete in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
The USOC's Community Partner Program is focused on uniting forces with a select group of U.S. communities that work directly with the USOC to increase public awareness of Olympic and Paralympic sports. As an officially designated USOC Community Partner, UCO is given priority status for hosting USOC initiatives and events, with schools and organizations throughout Oklahoma assisting in the distribution of USOC education and outreach materials.