By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Continental Cup International Youth Sports Festival has seen significant growth, drawing thousands of participants and millions of dollars to Northeast Ohio.
Entering its seventh year, the 2012 Continental Cup will be held Thursday through Sunday and is relocating to new venues on the west side of Cleveland in order to accommodate growing trends and future opportunities. In 2011, the Continental Cup welcomed more than 3,000 athletes from 12 countries, who participated in the A.C. Milan soccer, Cleveland Indians Charities baseball and Cleveland Cavaliers basketball tournaments.
Victory Park Ohio, a sports complex located in North Ridgeville, has partnered with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and will host the soccer and baseball tournaments. North Olmsted’s Barton and Bradley fields, Olmsted Falls Soccer Complex and the City of North Ridgeville Soccer Complex will also host soccer, with Euclid Memorial Park to be utilized as an additional baseball site. Baldwin-Wallace College will be home to the basketball tournament as well as the lodging location for international athletes.
“Our vision was to create the largest, most respected annual international youth sports festival in the world while providing a significant positive economic impact to the local community,” said David Gilbert, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. “The Continental Cup is on track to being the fastest-growing international youth sports festival in the world, and we realize that it is greatly due to our wonderful partners, who also see the significance of an event like this.”
Each registered youth athlete who participates in the Cleveland Indians Charities baseball tournament will receive a complimentary ticket to any Cleveland Indians game that weekend, with basketball and soccer participants to receive free admittance to a game with the purchase of at least one regularly priced ticket. All Continental Cup athletes are encouraged to attend the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, and participate in a special pregame parade on Progressive Field and stay for a fireworks show following the game.
The opening ceremony and cultural festival will be held at Cleveland Browns Stadium from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. All tournament games are free and open to the public.
The vision for the Continental Cup International Youth Sports Festival remains to create a large, vibrant, annual civic event that celebrates internationalism, youth diversity and sportsmanship. Athletes from across the globe are given the opportunity to compete against one another in an exciting, cross-cultural environment. The Continental Cup was also named the 2010 and 2011 Outstanding Locally Created Event by the National Association of Sports Commissions.
For more information, go to www.continental-cup.com.