UK School Games get underway in Sheffield - VIDEO: Meet the teams!

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Sainsbury Games  Basketball

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One of the biggest junior sporting events in the country officially got under way in Sheffield with a spectacular opening ceremony at the city’s Motorpoint Arena - featuring dazzling lights, exciting music and appearances from Olympic and Paralympic stars.

The games, now in their sixth year, are taking place at seven venues across Sheffield until Sunday, with around 1,600 young athletes competing in 12 sports.

During an impressive opening ceremony, all of the athletes trooped into the arena wearing their team colours and took the official oath, before the games were declared open by 16-year-old swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who won two gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics aged just 13.

Ellie enacted the School Games’ version of the Olympic torch - but rather than a burning flame, she was instead handed a flag by a team of volunteers from Sainsbury’s supermarket, sponsoring the event for the second year.

The ceremony also featured a light show in which spotlights and lasers illuminated the arena.

Ellie, who took part in the games herself in 2006 aged 11, told The Star she was nervous at the prospect of opening the ceremony.

“It’s quite scary being up on stage in front of loads of people - I was in front of quite a lot of people in Beijing, but when you’re swimming you don’t actually see anyone because you’re in the water.

“Tonight I’m going to see everyone’s faces looking at me,” she said.

She said the Sheffield games were a bigger affair than the event she competed in, held in Glasgow.

“The opening ceremony was a lot smaller than this, and there were less sports than there are now. Getting all these athletes together is good practice for them,” Ellie said.

“I come to Sheffield a lot, I race at Pond’s Forge which is such a good pool. I think Sheffield is a cool place, it’s good for sports events and it’s great Sheffield has so many venues.”

Olympic champion Jason Gardener, who won the gold medal in the men’s relay at Athens in 2004 and also took part in the opening ceremony, said the event was ‘really fantastic’.

“It’s a big experience for the athletes and gives a flavour of what a full-scale games event is like. This is the best of our future talent, they will hopefully go on to fly the flag for Britain.

“We have the very best youngsters in the country coming here, competing. Some will achieve success, and some will leave disappointed, but for them it’s not the end of the road.”

Jason added: “This will highlight the fantastic facilities Sheffield has. Sheffield is known for churning out some great athletes - everyone knows Jessica Ennis, she’s one of Sheffield’s heroes.”

The games are promised to provide over 220 hours of sport, with 88 teams competing in sports such as judo, volleyball, cycling, swimming, athletics and badminton.

Revenue from the games is also expected to bring a £1million boost to Sheffield’s economy.

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