Salem is first city in U.S. to host all-ages sporting event

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In February, Salem hosted the first North American edition of the Generation Games, a free all-ages sporting event that began in The Netherlands as a way to bring generations together for physical activity.
Each team participating in the games, held on the weekend of Feb. 3-5, included a minimum of two generations, from children to older adults. Games were held at outdoor and indoor locations across the city, including Salem Common, Olde Salem Greens Golf Course, Salem Woods, the Salem State University gymnasium, the YMCA pool, and the Salem Community Center.
The games included a scavenger hunt focused on Salem’s history, cornhole, “human foosball,” and blacklight dodgeball, which was “a really big hit,” according to Patricia O’Brien, Salem’s parks, recreation and community services director.
 More traditional games included soccer, basketball, flag football and water volleyball, O’Brien said. Dutch students participating in the Salem State University-Rotterdam University international exchange program demonstrated how to play some of their traditional games, such as “nail pooping,” cake eating, can throwing and sack races.
“The philosophy is definitely cross-generational activities … just loose fun, going out and having fun and with multiple generations of families and friends,” O’Brien said. “A lot of the things were selected with that in mind, to make sure everyone would feel welcome to participate.”
The games are intended to encourage “lifetime fun, fitness, being active and playing,” O’Brien said, adding, “You can’t get enough play in everyday life.
“I think it was really successful overall,” she continued. “I’m hoping it’s one of those things that catches on. We got incredibly positive feedback from everyone that participated.”
The Generation Games ( debuted in Rotterdam in 2012. Bringing them to Salem was sparked by the Salem State exchange program, which brings Rotterdam students and faculty to Salem State to participate in programs sponsored by the university’s Sport and Movement Science Department.
At the Opening Ceremony, elected officials wrote on a baton with the hope of passing it to the next city that wants to host the games. Mayor Driscoll said in a statement that the games dovetail with the community’s goals for lifelong health and fitness.
“As a certified Age-Friendly City currently implementing our Salem For All Ages action plan, I am especially pleased that these games will help further promote intergenerational communication in our community, as well,” Driscoll said.