Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell and Britain’s Got Talent winner Warren Russell of Diversity lit up a superb Opening Ceremony for the 2013 Balfour Beatty London Youth Games finals on Thursday 4 July
Around 3,000 primary aged young people were competing at the School Games competition at the National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace. It was the first of three days of competitive sport for 10,000 young Londoners from all 33 London boroughs which runs through to Saturday and Sunday’s competitions for secondary aged participants.
Before the ceremonial lighting of the cauldron, the crowd were thrilled by a performance from Lambeth Academy Dance Group who earned their place through an on-line competition which attracted 5,000 votes.
Rowsell and Russell then wowed the audience as they strode to the stage with the flame to get the day off to a bang. Both are former London Youth Games competitors. Rowsell represented Sutton in cycling in 2004 and Russell competed in gymnastics for Barking & Dagenham in 2006-08.
Both thoroughly enjoyed the experience of returning to their roots. Rowsell said: “It was really special to be asked to light the flame. I remember the London Youth Games being fun, but it was also quite competitive against all the other boroughs.
“It was incredibly important because it gave the experience of competition without being too serious. You also compete against other boroughs, so you’ve got that pride of representing your borough which gives you motivation to try that bit harder.
“There were much better cyclists than me, but it was really good to learn from them. London Youth Games has that sort of Olympic feel that gets kids excited.”
Russell said: “I never expected it, many years ago I competed here and since then I’ve been on an amazing journey and it’s brought me back to where I used to compete – it’s crazy!
“I was talking to my little brother last night and I said ‘Ashton, what are your memories of the London Youth Games?’ He said ‘Coming first, second and third.’ I just remember the first year I came and I just wanted to come back every single year.
“It’s an amazing experience, it’s one you never forget, the buzz and how it’s organised. The London Youth Games has been going so long. It will leave a legacy behind. The London Youth Games is massively important because there’s so much negativity around youth in London and the London Youth Games gives young people such a focus and drive.”