IAAF Regional Development Centre Moscow

Liu leads the way at IAAF Kids’ Athletics event in Nanjing

 

Amid euphoric scenes more typically reserved for pop and rock icons, a six-day project to showcase the IAAF Kids’ Athletics programme was launched today at Wanda Plaza in downtown Nanjing, host city of the Youth Olympic Games.


IAAF Kids' Athletics event in Nanjing (Getty Images) © Copyright

 

The reason for the outpouring of emotion was the presence of Chinese track superstar and 2004 Olympic 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang, who generously offered a lending hand to the grassroots initiative.

Also present in central Nanjing to offer their wholehearted support were IAAF President Lamine Diack, IAAF Vice Presidents Sergey Bubka and Seb Coe and IAAF General Secretary Essar Gabriel. Yet for the hundreds of locals it was all about getting a glimpse – and, if they were lucky, a close camera shot – of Liu, who also landed the 2007 world 110m hurdles title as well as the world indoor 60m hurdles crown in 2008.

The Chinese hurdler, one of the IAAF’s three Youth Olympic Games Athlete Role Models, first addressed the crowd by microphone and then led the kids’ warm-up by jogging – Pied Piper style – twice around the 40x20m blue carpeted area specifically set aside for activities in the programme. He was then followed by a mob of chasing photographers and cameramen.

He then signed the official certificates awarded to all the 40 or so attending kids – a memory to treasure for the schoolchildren aged seven to eight.

The project, which is expected to see about 250 children participate over the next six days and will also be supported by world champions Kajsa Bergqvist and Dwight Phillips, was launched to coincide with the athletics programme, which also kicked off today at the nearby Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

IAAF Kids' Athletics event in Nanjing (Getty Images) © Copyright


The kids compete for their schools in up to four different events – sprint/hurdles relay, long jump with a pole, cross hop and rubber javelin throw – at the specially constructed zone.

The kids will all be given IAAF t-shirts as keepsakes from the event. The officials, aged about 12, were provided by local schools. The Kids’ Athletics Final will take place on 26 August in which the athletes will compete in the four aforementioned events plus speed ladder and kneeling throw.

Created in 2005, IAAF Kids’ Athletics is one of the biggest grassroots development programmes in the world of sports and by 2011 reached a cumulative audience of 1,500,000 children across 100 territories.

In 2012 Nestlé became the programme’s main sponsor, its commitment allowing the IAAF to organise additional courses for lecturers and coaches and eventually to reach a larger number of kids in existing or new markets.

The IAAF’s objectives of the programme are to make athletics the number one participation sport in schools, to educate kids into sport in general and athletics in particular and thus promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and to attract and sustain the potential sporting stars of tomorrow.


IAAF Kids’ Athletics strives to ensure a steady and sustainable policy of development of the sport of athletics; the aim of which is to introduce children to athletics at a basic level.

The IAAF aims to popularise athletics in the six areas through a programme of several competitions called “A Team Event for Children”, which comprises three event groups: sprinting/running, jumping and throwing. There are three age categories targeted by the programme: 7-8 years, 9-10 years and 11-12 years.

The IAAF has also initiated a programme to educate the lecturers and coaches who run the “IAAF Kids Athletics” programme.

Steve Landells for the IAAF