COLUMBIA — A large fireball erupted from the podium at half court of Mizzou Arena on Friday.
The fire was lit by 18-year-old Jordyn Wieber, Olympic gold medalist and member of the "Fierce Five" 2012 U.S. women's gymnastics team. Wieber, all of 5-feet-2-inches, had to stand on her toes to ignite the large silver torch.
Hundreds in attendance cheered once the Olympian officially set the Show-Me State Games in motion. Spectators waved enthusiastically in support of family and friends who walked across the court during the parade of athletes. Cars in the parking lot featured words of encouragement scrawled on windows to support the athletes that had been riding inside of them.
Wieber received the torch from last year's top male athlete, swimmer Zachary Lorson, who completed the torch's three-week journey around Missouri. Lorson jogged down the arena stairs after receiving the handoff in the upper deck from powerlifter Kate Walker, 2012's top female athlete.
This was the first time in more than a decade the torch run extended outside Columbia. It began in Springfield, making its way through Joplin, Lee's Summit, St. Charles and Jefferson City before Shelter Insurance employees finished the job Friday, running 3.3 miles from the company's headquarters on West Broadway to Mizzou Arena.
"It's a really good way to get our message across the state," Show-Me State Games media coordinator Emily Lorenz said. "To promote health, fitness, family and fun."
Other local celebrities participated in the opening ceremony. Miss Missouri and 2010 Rock Bridge High School graduate Shelby Ringdahl sang the national anthem. The MU women's gymnastics team introduced Wieber to the crowd and MU football players Justin Britt, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington led the competitors in the oath of athletes.
The Show-Me State Games creates an estimated $15 million in economic impact each year in Columbia, according to its website. Mayor Bob McDavid said at the torch running ceremony that the Games benefit the city more than simply financially.
"The Show-Me State Games mean so much to the city of Columbia," he said. "Nothing correlates with longevity like physical activity."
Officials noted during the ceremony how the Games have become the largest of its kind in the country. The annual event started in 1985 as a nonprofit program of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Health. Events will take place across the city both this weekend and next following an abbreviated round of competition last month.
A schedule can be found at www.smsg.org/sports.
Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.