Belfast Telegraph

Belfast tipped to deliver a high quality Youth Games

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland will deliver an 'exceptional' Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021 which will inspire youngsters and showcase the country.

That's the view of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) Chief Executive Officer Conal Heatley following confirmation that Belfast will host the prestigious multi-sport event in five years' time.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed on Friday that the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games were bound for Northern Ireland and there was much pride and excitement at Belfast City Hall yesterday when the official announcement was made by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Patron and 1972 Olympic champion Dame Mary Peters summed up the buoyant mood in the City Hall with a passionate speech about what it will mean to the country and the legacy it will leave.

The Youth Games will be held from July 27 to August 1 in 2021 and will welcome 1,000 young athletes, aged between 14 and 18, from Commonwealth countries to venues across Belfast and surrounding areas.

The Games will involve up to nine sports, including athletics, swimming and boxing. The athletics will be at the Mary Peters Track and swimming at the Aurora pool in Bangor. All the sports will be outlined in Edmonton, Canada at the CGF's General Assembly in October.

World champion boxers Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan have represented Northern Ireland at the Youth Games in the past. Other famous names to have taken part include World and Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, three-time World champion gymnast Beth Tweddle and tennis star Heather Watson.

When Jersey and Botswana pulled out of the bidding process, it left Northern Ireland with a clear run, though the bid for the Games still had to be up to scratch in terms of infrastructure, facilities and finances for an event that will cost around £3.7 million to bring here.

As part of the bid, NICGC Executive Officer Heatley and his team compiled a detailed 36 page document on the economic, tourism, education and sporting benefits of the Games being staged in Northern Ireland. Also included were explanations on venues, transport, accommodation, medical coverage and even the climate.

Heatley said: "A lot of work has been put in over the last 15 months and all the people we will work with over the next five years have been incredibly supportive.

"There are exceptional or sub standards and we will aim for exceptional in 2021.

"If we are going to showcase the city and showcase Northern Ireland we need to put on an exceptional show.

"I always felt we had a good chance of hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games, considering what we have done over recent years hosting the MTV Awards, G8, World, Police and Fire Games, Giro d'Italia and the Tall Ships.

"There is a will to deliver world class events to Northern Ireland and this is another one as we make Belfast and Northern Ireland a world class destination for big events.

"If you look at the great athletes who have competed previously at the Commonwealth Youth Games, it shows the quality that will be on show. It will be inspiring for our youngsters to see these athletes here.

"Some kids who come here to compete will be taking part in the senior Commonwealth Games the following year in Durban and two years after that they'll be at the Olympics.

"I'm sure some kids who will be at the Games in Northern Ireland in 2021 will become World champions in their sports in the future.

"Michael Conlan and Carl Frampton, who both competed for us at Commonwealth Youth Games, are great examples of that. Michael is now a Commonwealth Games champion and both he and Carl are World champions. I'm sure the Commonwealth Youth Games played a part in their development as young athletes."

CGF President Louise Martin CBE was hugely impressed by the Games bid. She added: "We look forward to writing a proud and ambitious new chapter in Northern Ireland's history through the unifying power of sport".

NI Commonwealth Games chairman Robert McVeigh stated it was a great opportunity "for children of upper primary school and Year 8 age to strive towards being part of the largest ever Team NI at the Commonwealth Youth Games."

What it's all about

- The Commonwealth Youth Games is a multi-sport Commonwealth event for athletes aged 14-18.

- All Commonwealth countries and territories are invited to participate. Normally around 1,000 athletes take part.

- The first Commonwealth Youth Games was held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2000 and has since been held in Bendigo, Australia (2004), Pune, India (2008), the Isle of Man, United Kingdom (2011) and Apia, Samoa (2015). In 2017 the Games will take place in the Bahamas with Northern Ireland hosting in 2021.

- In Northern Ireland there is likely to be nine sports in the Games, including athletics, swimming and boxing.

- At the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games, Northern Ireland returned from Samoa with 12 medals (four gold, four silver and four bronze). Bantamweight James McGivern, light-fly Stephen McKenna and light-welterweight Aidan Walsh claimed Team NI’s first ever boxing golds at the Games while swimmer Conor Ferguson also made the top step of the podium.

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