Thousands of potential athletes are poised at the starting blocks for the country’s only full community replica of the 2012 Olympics – to be held in Wythenshawe.
Around eight thousand residents will be swifter, higher and stronger in the spirit of Olympic motto during the nine-day Wythenshawe Games, which start on 20 July - before the baton is officially passed to the world's sporting elite in London.
From today (Thurs 23 February), the first wave of the giant Wythenshawe Games programme is officially underway in the town's primary schools.
Around 5,500 pupils can now sample a sport and fitness circuit featuring wobble-boards, space hoppers and co-ordination challenges, which will be part of the Games held throughout Wythenshawe and Wythenshawe Park.
The equipment - which will be left permanently at participating schools- combines eight activities designed to improve balance, agility and co-ordination. Pupils will have initial 'personal best' targets that will be reviewed again before the Games. Increases in fitness and activity levels will be recorded from now up to and including the Games and rewarded with a gold medal.
Older pupils from Wythenshawe's secondary schools and The Manchester College are currently being trained as volunteer youth leaders to help the younger children with this part of the Games programme.
Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Sport and Leisure at Manchester City Council, said: "If we can get youngsters involved in sport from an early age, it has the potential to transform their health and social skills for life. And older pupils helping primary pupils is a great form of 'buddying' - it breaks down barriers and will make younger pupils more confident about moving on to secondary school."
The overall aim of the Wythenshawe Games is to involve the whole community, regardless of age or fitness levels in a celebration of sport, which will have a lasting impact on residents' mental and physical well-being, sports participation and even employment opportunities.
The idea for the event has been developed and funded in partnership by Manchester City Council, Parkway Green Housing Trust, Willow Park Housing Trust, The Manchester United Foundation, Wythenshawe Hospital, The Manchester College and Wythenshawe Forum Trust. Additional funding for the Games is also being generated through business sponsorship.
Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Parkway Green Housing Trust, said: "This is an enormous project, which has something for everyone. 26 local sports clubs and groups are involved and seven new clubs will be established as part of the legacy of the Games. To give a further idea of size, 400 volunteers are being recruited to help with the management and organisation of the event. And, each of those volunteers will gain transferable skills for their CVs, with a reference at the end of the project, which will be invaluable for future job interviews."
The Games have been split into competitive and non-competitive events - but every sport has a link or base in Wythenshawe so that residents can continue with their hobby after the Games. Sports to be included within the programme include athletics, boxing, cheerleading, rugby union, wheelchair dance and wheelchair basketball to name a few.
For those people who want to join in primarily to achieve a personal target, there is also a community 'Personal Best Programme' where participants receive coaching and a passport to log their achievements and targets. Once targets are met, participants can work their way towards a gold medal. The nine activities in this category are: boxing, cycling, dance, drumming, health training (giving up smoking, losing weight etc), swimming, walking/ running, Zumba and Wii Fit.
Joe Doherty, chief executive of Willow Park Housing Trust, said: "Just as the Olympics has rings to symbolise the unity and diversity of all the nations involved, Wythenshawe Games has its own layered logo symbolising the many rich facets of life in Wythenshawe.
"A big sporting event like this can be held in Wythenshawe because of its exceptional facilities - such as Wythenshawe Park, it's excellent transport links, its fantastic educational and training resources and even more importantly its residents who are proud to make the area their home."
The Wythenshawe Games will run from Friday 20- Sunday 29 July at Wythenshawe Park and will culminate in a closing party, which 15,000 people are expected to attend.
The itinerary also includes family fun days on July 21 and 22. There will also be a celebrity cricket match on July 22; Special Olympics on July 23, Older People's Garden Party on July 25 and the Youth Games will be held on July 27.
For more information about Wythenshawe Games, log on to www.wythenshawegames.org.uk