Opening ceremony ushers in 2007 Empire State Games

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Thousands of New York's best amateur athletes converged on Valhalla Wednesday for the opening of the 2007 Empire State Games.

Music from a live band filled the air at the Kensico Dam Plaza as spectators started to flood in around 6:30 p.m. The Dam was transformed into an amphitheater for the event, which included $3 million worth of upgrades and preparations.

Security was tight at the event. County and local police were on hand as were bomb squads and a special response team. Although road closures were expected to cause major traffic tie-ups, many officials said authorities handled the flow well.

About 6,000 athletes from the Adirondacks, central, western, Long Island and New York City regions marched into the plaza according to region, receiving cheers and applause.

The running of the torch and lighting of the Empire State Games cauldron were the highlights of the much-anticipated event, which was capped off by a fireworks display.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer praised the Empire State Games as the highlight of his first year in office, while speaking to the athletes.

Keynote speaker Jeremy Schapp, of ESPN, ended the speeches for the night highlighting the power of sports. "Through sports we can celebrate human achievement,? he said.

Click here for team coverage on the logistics of transporting the athletes to events.

Related information:NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: Empire State GamesWestchester County Government: Empire State Games PreviewEmpire State Games in WestchesterEmpire State GamesEmpire State Games - Summer Games

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