The 23rd annual Commonwealth Games began with a bang tonight.
While some events were held as early as April, the main stretch of competition is this weekend. That included Friday's Opening Ceremony inside the Roanoke Civic Center.
The games feature 55 different sports and should attract close to 10,000 athletes.
The guest of honor on Friday night was Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, who said, "It's really cool for me because this is a lot like the meets that I started racing in before I became an Olympian."
Cheek stepped away from his speed skating career after the 2006 Turin Games to become a social activist and graduate from Princeton.
His first-ever race, when he was ten years old, was actually right here in Roanoke.
"For me this feels like coming home. I'm excited to talk to these guys and just let them know how much fun I hope they have."
The festivities began earlier in the evening. The athlete tailgate party featured members of the Washington Redskins.
The big names included Hall of Famer Charley Taylor, as well as Pro Bowlers Ken Harvey and Dexter Manley.
"I think that the Redskin fans have been outstanding for 80 years. What touched my heart the most is I didn't appreciate the Redskin fight song, because you in the mix," said Manley. "Now you sit on the sideline, it has such a warm feeling. I think they should do the Redskin fight song before every kickoff. I think they can go 16-0 if they do that."
The Redskins 80th Anniversary Thank You Tour will return to Roanoke in August. About a dozen players are scheduled to appear at a dinner on August 8th at the Roanoke Country Club.
The event will benefit the Floyd-based Chance Harman Foundation.
More information can be found at www.washingtonredskinsalumni.com.