The sun is shining when Ethan Mayer climbs the podium. Beads of sweat glisten on his forehead and he is short of breath but Ethan still manages to smile at the cheering crowd. Just minutes before, the 10-year-old boy from a school in Lewisham, had put the athletics track on fire when he outran seven other boys to claim the gold in the 200 metre run.
It’s August 2 and day one of a two-day festival organised by Lewisham Positive Futures. More then fifty children aged 10 – 15 have gathered at the Lady Arena in Catford to compete in a range of athletic events, boxing bouts and fencing rounds. At a time when London is playing host to the 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics, the children, parents and teachers of Lewisham are celebrating the spirit of the Games in their own small but significant way.
Part of the Opportunity ‘Inspired by London 2012’ scheme in partnership with the Prince’s Trust and The Department for Culture Media and Sport, the intiative aims to involve the young people across the UK in the excitement of London 2012.
“I am excited that I am learning some Olympic techniques,” Ethan said. “When they show various games on TV, I like trying them out myself.”
Parents, too, are enthusiastic: “This gives the children a chance to have a positive influence, which is very important,” said Lynn Hurst, mother of a 11-year-old Melinda.
“The event gives young people a chance to learn the correct techniques, develop skills, meet new people and gain a better understanding of the rules of each sport,” said Peter Dacres, social inclusion officer at Lewisham Positive Futures. “It is a day full of fitness and fun!” He believes the festival will provide young people an opportunity to get involved with the Games.
“Young people wanted to be involved, they wanted to be part of the Olympics. And this provides them with what they looked for,” Dacres said, as he rounded up the first day’s events at the Lady Arena.
12-year-old Rashida Helensmith couldn’t agree more.
“I am really happy that I could do it,” she said. “It was quite fun and it makes me feel like I am also doing the same sports as those in the Olympics.”
Lewisham Positive Futures is among 91 community-based projects managed locally by Millwall Community Scheme and nationally by Catch22.