More than 200 disabled school children from 24 schools in eight London boroughs will get a rare opportunity to compete in an Olympic and Paralympic venue on 14 June at the London Panathlon Finals – a ‘mini Paralympics’ for children.
Paralympic champion Liz Johnson will be there to support the teams, including defending champions, Barking & Dagenham, who will compete with last year’s runners-up Enfield, plus Croydon and Sutton.
Joining them at the iconic London 2012 venue will be teams from Waltham Forest, Merton, Harrow and Bexley, who will battle it out in the London Plate Final.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As Mayor, I believe that sport has the ability to change lives, build stronger communities and improve the health and well-being of all Londoners. I’m delighted to continue to support the annual Panathlon Challenge, ensuring anyone can take part in sport.
“I’m proud that over 4,000 young Londoners have taken part this year and 200 young Londoners from 24 schools in the capital have qualified for the finals here at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I hope you enjoy the 2018 finals.“
Panathlon ambassador and three-time Paralympic swimming medallist Johnson said: “Very few people get the chance to compete at such an iconic venue as the Copper Box Arena. Without Panathlon, many of these children wouldn’t get the chance to play any sport at all, so this is a precious opportunity for them.”
The Finals are the culmination of another packed season of Panathlon competition, which has seen more than 1,500 disabled youngsters from over 100 schools representing all 32 London boroughs compete in a series of multisport competitions to determine who would reach the Copper Box finale.
This is the fifth year that Panathlon has held its showpiece event at the Copper Box, the state-of-the-art London 2012 venue. In July the Olympic Park’s Aquatic Centre will host its tenth Panathlon swim competition this year, cementing the legacy Panathlon continues to deliver after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Panathlon provides sporting opportunities for over 15,000 disabled young people each year. Over 900 schools will have taken part in 300 of Panathlon’s ‘mini Paralympic’ competitions by the end of 2017/18, with over 100,000 active hours of sport provided to disabled children this year.
The charity’s work is funded in London by the Jack Petchey Foundation, the Mayor of London and St. James’s Place Foundation.
Sir Jack Petchey CBE said: “I’m passionate about sports and was still playing squash in my 80s! I believe every youngster should get a chance to take part in sport. That’s why I am delighted the Jack Petchey Foundation supports Panathlon. No matter what your disability you can still compete.
“You can see from the faces of everyone at Panathlon events they agree – if you think you can, you can.”
David Bellamy, Chairman of the St. James’s Place Foundation, said: “We are extremely proud to support Panathlon and their vital work to improve the lives of so many young people and their families through participation in sport across the country.”