A Wild West shoot-out kicked off the opening ceremony of the World Cup shotgun match with a bang Friday afternoon at the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center.
The Texican Rangers re-enactment was the beginning of a historic afternoon that saw the Olympic flag raised over the Kerrville shooting range and the flags of the 50 nations competing in this week’s World Cup carried in by mounted Kerr County 4-H Horse Club members.
Many tributes were paid to Rose and Jack Burch, the shooting center’s founders, for their vision in developing Roses family ranch into a world-class shooting venue. Masters of ceremonies Steve Alex and Harley Belew introduced Rose Burch to the hundreds of athletes, coaches and community members as a fourth-generation Kerr County resident, whose great-grandfather’s decision to buy Red Rose Ranch in 1938 started the path to the shooting center’s development.
The U.S. Olympic Committee’s Director of Sports Steve Rausch paid tribute, too, to the community support, including local government entities and economic development agencies.
It takes the support of communities such as Kerrville working with USA Shooting to partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee to develop such a great facility as this, he said. I can’t help but tell you how important shooting is to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Our success in (the) Beijing (Olympics) will be tied to the success of shooters in 2008.
The World Cup was officially opened by the president of the International Shooting Sports Federation, Olegario Vazquez Raa. The 71-year-old former Mexican national shooter welcomed the 325 athletes who traveled to Kerrville from 50 countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, China and India.
HCSSF’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Burch described the opening as a dream come true that wouldn’t have happened without the help of many people.
“The athletes who have come here have an Olympic dream,” he said. Rose and I have an Olympic dream. We are living it today.
State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran welcomed the international contingent to Texas on behalf of Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature.
“This day brings further acclaim to Texas as a haven for outdoor activities and shooting sports,” he said.
The World Cup shotgun event that runs this week is the first to be conducted in the United States for eight years. In addition to the HSCCS staff, it has been an effort in logistics combining the work of local groups, including the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau and USA Shooting. The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce has organized four buses to travel a circular route through Kerrville from the Y.O. Ranch from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Thursday to accomodate visitors and locals wishing to travel around Kerrville free of charge.
National Rifle Association President Sandy Froman, a former international shooter, addressed the crowd, praising the quality of the facility and speaking directly to the athletes.
“For you Olympic athletes here … the friendships you make in Kerrville will follow you for the rest of your lives,” Froman said.
Competition begins Saturday at 8 a.m. in both men and women’s skeet shooting disciplines. Members of the public are invited to attend the World Cup to watch the events. For complete results, log on to www.issf.tv