In eight years of being directly involved in the Sainsbury’s School Games, the event has given me some incredible memories. I hope the same could be said for any of the thousands of athletes, volunteers, coaches, parents or spectators who have competed, cheered home friends and family, or played a vital role behind the scenes.
The impact and prestige of the School Games is demonstrated by the world class alumni who are today gaining plaudits on the international stage. This year, at the official Opening Ceremony on Thursday 3 September, we are honoured to welcome back to open the Sainsbury’s 2015 School Games heroes of the moment Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Peaty.
Just a few weeks ago Adam became the first Briton to win three world titles in the pool, when he dominated at the FINA World Championships in Kazan. Adam competed at two School Games, in 2010 and 2011, before going on to be one of 150 alumni that competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. A staggering 59 of these athletes claimed 84 medals for their home countries.
Dina will arrive in Manchester fresh from the IAAF World Athletics Championships, having gained the accolade of Britain’s first woman to run 100m in under 11 seconds earlier this season. All just three years after she competed in the 2012 School Games, hosted in the Olympic Park weeks before London hosted the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. If you will be following the action in Beijing, watch out for the 17 GB athletes who previously competed at the School Games.
Our alumni list therefore continues to shine, and it is a privilege to know that we will watch again this year knowing that somewhere out there is a future Team GB or ParalympicsGB gold medallist!
Suffice to say that we have amazingly talented young people in this country and I am honoured to be able to support their development through the Games and in doing so challenge how junior events should provide learning alongside competition.
This year in Manchester over 120 young people, disabled and non-disabled, from around the country will be residential volunteers, part of an overall 570-strong volunteer workforce. Meanwhile the Talent Inspiration Programme features 200 young people nominated by their schools to take part in a three-day residential camp to help them explore their talent and hopefully compete at future School Games.
Importantly school engagement is evident right across the Games – whether through the debating competition, the young hosts and performers in the 5,000 spectator opening ceremony, the young media teams creating digital and print copy as well as a highlights programme to be broadcast on YouTube, or the hundreds of entries into the ‘design a medal competition’ and hundreds of participants in the baton relay around Manchester schools.
The School Games National Finals provides us with a unique opportunity to bring together the very best of our work to support young people, and we are delighted to be able to now do so through to 2018. If you are unable to attend in person, I very much hope you will tune into your favourite event via our livestreaming channel, broadcast throughout the four days of the Sainsbury’s 2015 School Games.