Great Britain stars call for city to support London Youth Games
PUBLISHED: 08:30 06 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:52 10 July 2018
Two London Olympians who took part in London 2012 have backed a campaign to help secure the future of the London Youth Games, Europe's largest youth sports festival.
Sprinter Christine Ohuruogu, who took silver in the 400 metres in 2012, and weightlifter Zoe Smith, who competed in her first ever Olympics in her home city eight years ago, were at the London Youth Games Finals at Crystal Palace to call on the city’s businesses and stakeholders to help support the Games that helped launch their sporting careers. Ohuruogu, who competed in athletics and netball for Newham and Smith, who took part in weightlifting for Greenwich in 2006, are part of a group of around 1.5 million Londoners who have taken part in the Games since it made its debut in 1977.
During that time the Games have also helped develop the careers of Rio Ferdinand, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Dina Asher Smith, Alex Scott and David Weir, as well as bringing generations of other young Londoners from all communities together, representing their local boroughs with pride.
The Games, which take place across the year with competitions in over 30 different sports and 11 para-sports, culminate in the Finals weekend at Crystal Palace.
Over 130,000 young people from the city currently take part in the Games, which is supported by Sport England and all 33 London Boroughs.
However, financial backing is needed for it to continue at its current scale and to ensure that those currently involved, along with future generations, do not miss out on taking part in years to come.
Organisers are hopeful that the city’s business community and its leaders can come forward to support the Games which over the last 40 years have gained a reputation for reflecting in those who take part the diversity which makes London great - with an equal number of girls and boys taking part, and over 40% of participants being from a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background).
Christine Ohuruogu said: “London Youth Games is really where it all started for me and was a fantastic way to for me to meet and compete with other people my age from right across the different Boroughs and communities in the city.
“It is such a great example of how sport can bring young people together in a positive way and we need to do everything we can to make sure that as many young Londoners as possible continue to get the opportunity to take part and benefit from it.”
Zoe Smith, whose first experience of weightlifting came at the London Youth Games as a 12 year-old added: “I don’t think I would have ever got into weightlifting if it wasn’t for London Youth Games so I have a lot to thank it for - it was the making of me really.
“We should be so proud to have something like this in London. It is not just about sport.
“It gives young people to chance to meet new friends and benefit from a whole range of things from improving their confidence to learning about respect and fair play.”
Jon Hughes, Chief Executive, London Youth Games said: “There is no other event and organisation better at uniting young people from across all London’s 33 Boroughs and communities than the London Youth Games.
“Taking part also helps young people’s personal development, physical and mental health, and helps to ensure that they feel a part of their local community and their city.
“Sport England and the 33 London Boroughs are incredibly supportive of London Youth Games and play a vital role in helping us deliver them.
“However we are at a crossroads in terms of what we need in order to secure its future and to make sure that young people from across London do not miss out next year and in the future.
“We are therefore calling on London’s leaders and businesses to come forward and safeguard its future.”
Ohuruogu and Smith were joined at today’s event at Crystal Palace by rising British athletics stars Shannon and Cheriece Hylton, who once competed for Bromley, to help launch a #SupportYourGames campaign.
The campaign features a video (view here) with former Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alfonsi alongside Conrad Williams, Smith, Ohuruogu and a number of current London Youth Games participants.