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Inspired by sporting fire
10:10am Friday 18th May 2012 in Features
Tomorrow marks the start of a month-long countdown to the Olympic flame arriving in York and an unusual sports day at the city’s racecourse. MATT CLARK meets a sporting giant who is taking part.
LET’S call him Ed, declares an unprompted voice to the gathered craning necks and squinting eyes against the afternoon sun. “Ed because he’s 12 feet tall, so his ’ed is in the clouds.”
It’s an apt name, but he’s Jack to the other pupils of Wigginton Primary School, who built the biomechanical puppet to celebrate the Olympic torch coming to York.
And today marks the start of a month-long countdown to that big day on June 19; one that will be marked by events including a special sports day at the racecourse where mechanical sporting giants will battle for gold.
There’s 30 of them, all built by pupils at 23 of York’s primary schools, including Wigginton – home to Ed, or was that Jack? – as part of York’s Inspire Mark projects.
These are innovative activities and programmes inspired by the London Games in a bid to bring people together.
Wigginton teacher Jen Brownlee thinks sporting giants is a great project and one the whole school wanted to be involved with.
“We asked each class to design a different body part,” she says. “So we have a swimmer’s head, a cyclist’s arm, a boxer’s arm, plus basketball and paralympic legs.”
Jen says the concept came from Lee Threadgold, an expert in carnival puppets, who went into each school to help build the huge puppets.
“It took a long, long time to build Jack, a couple of months probably,” says Jen. “The whole school got involved and lots of ideas went into making the giant.
“Now the children each have their faces pasted onto his face.”
Wigginton’s Year Two and Six pupils will be at the mini-Olympics at the racecourse, where their giant will take part in weightlifting, archery, hurdles and swimming.
Jack is operated by pupil power – a dozen scurrying schoolchildren, one with the giant body on his shoulders, the rest flailing their way along the course, some holding the giant size 200 trainers, others guiding the hands as they navigate hurdles and weights.
However, the archery contest is a school secret; understandable really, they don’t want the opposition gaining an upper hand.
“We’re doing a whole topic on the Olympics next half term and there will be a big opening ceremony for our sports day,” says Jen.
“The children are all really looking forward to the torch coming to York. We’ll be on the front row with our giants when it does.”
More than 2,700 projects in England and Wales have been awarded the coveted Inspire Mark for their work in six areas: sustainability, education, volunteering, business, sport or culture.
In York a number of events will be held including the third annual Celebrating Ability Day will be held on August 24 when the Paralympics Flame arrives.
The university is running business and volunteer programmes, while Let it Row, Let it Row will be held at York High School.
The torch celebrations on June 19 will begin at 11am with the Sporting Giants Games at Bustardthorpe, and from 2pm at the racecourse there will be sports demonstrations and interactive stands offering tasters of activities including basketball, cheerleading, table tennis and equestrian sports.
Later in the day, the 12 finalists of NEU2012 (National university entrepreneur student enterprise competition) will attend the York Enterprise Event at York Racecourse’s Ebor Stand to pitch their ideas to an audience of some 500 business experts, investors and entrepreneurs.
The competition involves every British university and is the largest student enterprise competition in the UK. The four winners will be announced before the torch arrives.
In the evening will be acrobatic performances and sessions with up and coming local bands. Headlining is Katy B, who has released a single to mark the Olympic celebrations.
But the real star of the show will be the Olympic Torch, completing the final leg of the day’s journey on horseback. It will be used to light a celebration cauldron on the stage at 6.50pm.
One of the York torch bearers is Stan Wild, who vaulted and swung for Great Britain in the1968 and 1972 Olympics as a gymnast.
In June Stan, 68, will be again be carrying the flame for his country and he says it’s the culmination of his Olympic dreams. “I’m very pleased.” Stan says. “It’s always an honour to work with the Olympics and represent Great Britain.”
Stan founded the York Community and Gymnastics Foundation in Heworth, after retiring from competitive gymnastics in 1974.
Now about 2,000 young people use the centre every week and Stan offered his centre as a training and practice area for atheletes competing in the London games.
His reward, aside from carrying the torch, is tickets to the event he competed in.
Another York torch bearer is All Saints RC School pupil Jessica Hoggarth-Hall, and the day she will be running with the Olympic flame will be her 14th birthday.
“It’s an amazing and once in a lifetime opportunity,” Jessica says. “Having my family and friends there to support me will make it more special, plus I will be keeping the torch I carry after the run.”
What better birthday presents could she ask for?
Jessica is looking forward to watching the Olympics and says her favourite categories are gymnastics and field sports.
Clive Warley, 74, from York will also be carrying the Olympic flame around York.
Clive has been involved with the Table Tennis Association all his life, and reached the semi-finals of the 1999 European Disabled Table Tennis Championships.
He says he is delighted to be one of the City of York’s nominations.
“I feel privileged to have been chosen,” he says. “Like a lot of people I will be watching the games on TV and will be hoping all our athletes do well.”
An open invitation
The June 19 celebration will be open to all and unticketed.
People who want to join the celebration and throw themselves into the sporting spirit are invited to tell City of York Council that they are coming to the party by clicking onto york.gov.uk//yorkgold2012 and following the link.
York’s Inspire Mark projects include
• Today’s youth tomorrow’s leaders: North Yorkshire Sport (Andy Pope) email@example.com
• Let it Row, Let it Row: York High School (Gavin Cowley) firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Business and Volunteer Programmes: University of York, run by Amanda Selvaratnam, email@example.com, head of corporate training at the University of York
• Year of Activity: York St John Inclusive Activity Club (Simon Kumar) firstname.lastname@example.org
• Celebrating Ability Day: York’s third annual Celebrating Ability Day on August 24, when the Paralympics Flame will arrive in York email@example.com
Olympic flame is handed over
THE Olympic flame was officially handed over to a British delegation including David Beckham and the Princess Royal following a sundown ceremony at Greece's Panathenaic Stadium, home of the 1896 Games, yesterday evening.
It will be flown to the UK today in an aeroplane dubbed The Firefly that has been painted gold, white and yellow in honour of the occasion. The aircraft will land at a Cornish air base this evening, and the 70-day relay around Britain – which sees the torch arrive in York on June 19 – starts at Land’s End tomorrow morning.
The national relay will see 8,000 torchbearers carrying it to the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London. The London 2012 Olympics begins on July 27.