Young athletes in city for school games opening

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OVER 1,500 young athletes are heading for Sheffield today as the UK School Games officially gets under way with a spectacular opening ceremony.

The youngsters will take part in 12 sports at seven venues across the city during the four-day competition, which kicks off tonight at the Motorpoint Arena in Attercliffe.

The celebrations will see a variety of exciting entertainment displays on stage, as well as appearances from Olympic and Paralympic athletes including gold medallist Jason Gardener.

Double Beijing 2008 Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds will declare the games open by running the final leg of the UK School Games relay, which has been taking place in the run-up to the event.

Sports will be happening at the Abbeydale Sports Ground, Don Valley Stadium, the English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield, as well as Wharncliffe and Wheata Woods and Ponds Forge.

The young athletes will stay at Sheffield University accommodation and be mentored by elite sportsmen and women.

This year two new sports - wheelchair basketball and rugby sevens - will be included in the programme at the games, which are sponsored by Sainsbury’s.

Sports include badminton, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, table tennis and volleyball.

Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for business, jobs and growth, said: “We’re extremely proud to be hosting the games and we’re looking forward to showcasing the city’s top sporting venues.

“It’s a huge honour to welcome 1,600 of the UK’s most promising young sporting talent to our region.”

Funding for the games is provided by the National Lottery and Legacy Trust UK.

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n More on the competitors in Grass Roots tonight.