Opening Ceremonies

WHAT: Huntsman World Senior Games Opening Ceremonies
WHEN: Tuesday, October 6 at 7:00 pm
WHERE: Hansen Stadium, Dixie State University
ADMISSION: Free to All

Download a Map of Campus Parking Lots 

The Opening Ceremonies, one of the highlights of the Huntsman World Senior Games, take place at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6, on the campus of Dixie State University at the Hansen Stadium.  A perennial favorite among the athletes and community alike, this free show will feature the talents of local youth under the direction of Diamond Talent, the inspiring Parade of Athletes, and an impressive fireworks display.

Both athletes and community members are invited to enjoy the Opening Ceremonies free of charge.  The gates open at 6:00 p.m.  A free shuttle, generously provided by Road Scholar - DSU, will be available from several campus parking lots to the stadium before the show and back afterwards. 

The Huntsman World Senior Games has a long standing tradition of great, inspirational speakers at the annual Opening Ceremonies. This year is no exception.  Olympic decathlete, Rafer Johnson, once considered the greatest athlete on Earth, will be sharing some of his life experiences. The Opening Ceremonies takes place on Tuesday, October 6, at 7:00 p.m. at Dixie State University Hansen Stadium. The family-oriented show is free to attend and is sure to please.

Rafer JohnsonFrom his youth, Rafer Johnson was an outstanding all-around athlete, as proven by his record-breaking win of the Olympic gold medal for the decathlon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy. The decathlon winner, according to tradition, is regarded as the best all-around athlete in the world.

In high school, Johnson earned 11 school letters, captained three high school athletic teams, and distinguished himself in four sports. Johnson excelled in track and field, where he derived a feeling of elation from the uncomplicated non-contact sports of running, jumping, and throwing. “There is no pro future in track, that’s true. But there is a stimulating present,” he once said.

After a good showing at his first high school meet, Johnson set a goal—to qualify for the Olympics, which he did in 1956. Shackeled by an injury, Johnson returned home from the Melbourn, Australia Games with the silver medal.

A serious car accident in 1959 resulted in damage to Johnson’s spinal cord and lower back and caused him to miss several international events. After seven months of painful recuperation, Johnson began jogging. Slowly he resumed running and sprinting training. One month prior to the 1960 Olympic trials, Johnson accelerated his recuperative retraining schedule to include jumps. Again in 1960, as in 1956, Johnson qualified for the Olympic team. He went to the games in Rome, Italy, as captain of the U.S. team.

Johnson won the gold medal in the decathlon that year with a record-breaking score of 8,392 points and earned for himself the distinction of being the world’s best athlete. Following his Olympic gold medal victory, he received numerous offers to play professional football and basketball, but accepted instead a contract to make films with Twentieth Century Fox. He appeared in films with Bob Hope and Elvis Presley and in two Tarzan movies.

Rafer JohnsonWhen Johnson received the People to People Award as Athlete of the Year he met the late U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy at the awards affair. A friendship ensued that spawned Johnson’s involvement in a number of Kennedy-sponsored public projects. In 1968 Johnson served as an official delegate for the Kennedy presidential ticket, although the honor turned tragic on June 5, 1968 when Robert Kennedy was assassinated following the California presidential primary.

Johnson, who witnessed the murder firsthand, assisted in arresting the assassin’s flight and retrieved the murder weapon. He was a pallbearer at the funeral and testified at the murder trial.

On December 18, 1971, Johnson married Elizabeth “Betsy” Thorsen, a middle school teacher. The couple had two children: Jennifer, born in 1973; and Joshua, born in 1975.

Twenty-four years after his gold-medal victory, Johnson relived his Olympic glory days by running the final lap of the opening ceremonies relay and lighting the Olympic torch for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

In 2000 Johnson realized a unique dream, and what he called his greatest moment, when he watched his own daughter compete in Sand Volleyball at the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia.