Olympics comes to Liverpool

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Olympic sports drew crowds to the Echo Arena

Liverpool got behind its Olympians on Sunday as hundreds of people gathered at the Echo Arena to attend the Festival of Olympic Sports.

With 187 days to go until the 2012 Olympics open in London, members of the public and schools from around Liverpool celebrated the achievements of Liverpool’s very own athletes who will be competing at the Games this summer.

As well as marking the 2012 Olympics, the festival was also designed to encourage people to partake in a healthier lifestyle. Speaking at the festival, British high jump record holder Steve Smith said: “There is something for everyone and when you really enjoy a sport you improve. Sport gives you so much.”

Hosted by BBC Radio Merseyside sports presenter Alan Jackson, the festival opened with the Liverpool Samba School providing a drumming beat for three dancers in lime green and pink costumes to dance along to. Everyone was on their feet as the dancers encouraged the stadium to clap along.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY0GAsQXskY

The free event proved very popular and there was a tangible sense of pride in the arena. Alan Jackson said: “We are famous around the world for champions of sport. It’s our year for the Olympic and Paralympic games!” Swimming champion Stephen Parry added to the morale, commenting: “Let’s have Liverpool do as well as we can this year.”

Amongst the demonstrations, Liverpool’s very own sporting champions talked about their achievements and how they are excited to be going to London this summer. Three-time world champion, gymnast Beth Tweddle said: “When I was younger I loved sports and I tried many but then I found gymnastics. It was only when I was about 17 that I thought I could be a champion.”

Paralympians were also celebrated at the day-long festival and local table tennis player Mark Palmer said: “Table tennis recognition for the Paralympics is amazing. We’ve got some great Paralympians that come from Liverpool.”

Throughout festival, it was obvious how important the support from their home city was to the Olympians. Double Olympic runner Curtis Robb said: “When I was in Barcelona [1992 Games] and there were 80,000 people, it was very nerve-racking but thrilling. They gave me a copy of the Echo before the final and it was great thinking about home and to feel that everyone was behind you.”

About Abi Bramhall, JMU Journalism