Community Games: ‘Minor Olympics’ opens in Athlone
7,000 young people to attend national finals seens as a ‘first milestone’ for future Irish athletes
File photograph of competitors at the Community Games national finals. Photograph : Bryan O’Brien
“The world’s eyes are on Rio and we’re here preparing for our own minor Olympics over the next two weekends,” said Gerry Davenport president of the Community Games.
Friday marks the opening of the annual Community Games national finals being held in Athlone Institute of Technology, Co Westmeath in which 7,000 young people are expected to attend over the next two weekends as they compete in a variety of games and events.
All the children taking part are aged between 6 and 16 years and they will be competing in a variety of activities from soccer, rugby and swimming to debating, choir, and handwriting.
According to Mr Davenport the Community Games can be seen as a stepping-stone to future careers in national and international sport.
He said taking part in the games was “ one of the first milestones of future Olympians”.
He said a number of prominent Irish Olympians have started off their careers in theCommunity Games, from Brendan Boyce an Olympic race walker, Fiona Doyle an Olympic swimmer to Sinead Lynch Olympic rower who took part in the Olympic finals on Friday , not to mention Olympic silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan.
The opening ceremony that will take place on Friday will be a low-key event with the children lighting their own flame followed by indoor soccer. Most of the events and activities are due to start on Saturday morning.
Sinead Colleran, website and social media manager for the Community Games, said that 20,000 people attended the event last year, not including the children and they are hoping to exceed that this year.
Ms Colleran said that there has been a lot of interest in the games this year with many of the hotels in Athlone and the surrounding areas booked up.
The Community Games have been an on-going event since 1967 and next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the games.According to Ms Colleran they are going to make a celebration of it, “We’re planning a huge big Gala next May as part of our AGM in Dublin”.
Mr Davenport said events are being planned as part of the anniversary to take place in the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin
The Community Games are run in association with the Health Service Executive. They have 10,000 volunteers that work in 571 areas across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to promote healthy lifestyles, community and encourage a love of sport and culture.