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Thousands to take in taekwondo 

The annual American Taekwondo Association World Championships return to the Statehouse Convention Center this week, with titles galore being fought for on Friday through Sunday, June 24-25.

Also, ATA will bring out pomp and circumstance fit for the Olympics at its opening night celebration at Alltel Arena on Friday, June 23. The event begins at 8 p.m. and includes demonstrations as well as high-level taekwondo experts trying to advance to masters classification. The night’s program, titled “The Legend of Baeoh: Nobility of the Flying Tiger,” is a Hollywood-style production based on a comic book animation and is produced by Taekwon Lee, son of the ATA founder, H.U. Lee.

This year’s championships will feature the first X-Treme Competitions at the World Championships. X-Treme is a new level of taekwondo developed by actor and martial artist Mike Chat that combines the grace and artistry of traditional taekwondo with the modern gymnastic routines of today’s pop culture. Three teams from Orlando, Minneapolis and Chicago will compete as finalists for the X-Treme Team title Friday at Alltel Arena. Those teams survived a 14-team preliminary tournament in Las Vegas.

In all, up to 20,000 people are expected to attend some portion of the championships this weekend, according to the ATA and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Competitions begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday, and 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Also, the ATA and the LRCVB will break ground on the H.U. Lee International Gate & Garden at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Tickets to the opening ceremonies are $14 and are available through Ticketmaster. Tickets to competitions Saturday and Sunday are $5 for either day and are available at the door. Call 568-2821 for more information.

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