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The Virginia Commonwealth Games officially begin Friday at Liberty University and participants and fans will notice a few differences this year.

The tailgate party and opening ceremonies are each getting a remix for 2022.The Parade of Athletes will kick off at 5:30 p.m., leading into opening ceremonies, which will feature the newly crowned Miss Virginia Victoria Chuahm, the lighting the cauldron and the official start of the Games. The 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX will also be highlighted during the opening ceremony.

The tailgate party, where athletes will get their Games wristband and other items, will begin at 6 p.m. There will also be games and activities for fans and athletes from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Liberty football practice facility.

Both events Friday evening are free to the public and open to the community.

“Liberty University is proud to continue its partnership with Virginia Amateur Sports as we host the 2022 Virginia Commonwealth Games here on campus,” said Liberty President Jerry Prevo. “We look forward to welcoming the athletes and their families to Lynchburg as these talented athletes exhibit their skills and determination during this week’s competitions.”

There are five new sports and one returning sport this year — cheerleading, gravel racing, adaptive rugby, inclusive track & field, team volleyball, and the return of mountain biking.

There have already been a few competitions this year, including five last weekend. To date, more than 2,500 athletes have competed in the Games in 2022.

“We were excited to add adaptive rugby and inclusive track & field to give even more of Virginia’s athletes that hadn’t previously been able to compete, the opportunity to show their skills and earn a medal,” said VAS President Dan Foutz.

Main Games weekend (July 22-24) will bring 12 sports to Lynchburg and the surrounding area, one in Roanoke, one in Christiansburg and a virtual Chess competition -for a total of 15 sports in three days.

“It is sure to be a great weekend of competition and performances, including over 100 basketball teams,” Foutz said.

Lynchburg and the surrounding area, including Bedford County, should also see an economic bump from the Games.

“We are proud to partner with Liberty University and Virginia Amateur Sports to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games and, most importantly, to welcome all of the athletes, families and friends to our City,” said Lynchburg Mayor Mary Jane Dolan. “The Commonwealth Games bring thousands of athletes to the city and we are thrilled that both the number of participants and the impact they have in Lynchburg continues to grow. While you are here, we encourage you to explore all Lynchburg has to offer, from fantastic food offerings to historic sites and exciting outdoor activities. We hope you enjoy your time in the Hill City.”

The Games are also partnering again this year with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in an effort to Torch Hunger. VAS launched a text to donate campaign, with a goal of providing meals to area families in need. You can learn more about the campaign by texting BRFOODBANK to 44-321.

“Main Games weekend upholds a positive reputation with the community for bolstering tourism and serving as an economic engine to the host city each year,” VAS said in a press release. “For 33 years, the Virginia Commonwealth Games have provided excellent opportunities for thousands of Virginians to develop and foster new relationships, establish new goals and personal bests, while at the same time learning teamwork, sportsmanship, as well as individual team responsibilities.”