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22 Mar 2006

Team logoSome 10,000 miles away, beneath a sunny 20-25ºC sky, 70 nations are locked in battle at the XVIII Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. And with four days of action still to come, spectators can expect some thrilling sporting action.

While south of the equator the Melbourne Cricket Ground was the hub of activity, further north the action centred around the Afan Lido in Aberavon. For one day only the venue put on a multi-sport festival to rival the Games proper.

The Sports Council for Wales today presented primary school children from Neath Port Talbot with the opportunity to get in on the Commonwealth action. Under the Dragon Sport umbrella – a pioneering lottery funded scheme which aims to get our children hooked on extra-curricular sport – the mini Games included traditional sports of athletics and netball through to the less conventional dodgeball and kurling.

While 300 budding primary school pupils were getting up to speed on the track and field and brushing up their ball skills on the rugby pitch and hockey courts, Neath Port Talbot’s finest have been out in force showcasing their skills down under.

Among the 142 athletes who have been gunning for glory in Melbourne are Discus thrower Philippa Roles (Neath), Rugby 7’s James Hook (Neath), swim star Thomas Haffield (Neath) and featherweight boxer Darren Edwards (Port Talbot).

Hoping to entice the apprentice athletes away from simply watching our elite on television and instead emulating their achievements, the festival aims to kick start a healthy sporting interest and unearth some future medal potential along the way.

And for one pupil from Clun Primary School, the day will live long in memory. As one of three schools in Wales to have been twinned with a school in Melbourne, Clun was entered into a competition to design a poster to be printed on the reverse of the miniature flag carried by our athletes at the opening ceremony. The winner was today presented with her design by Sports Minister Alun Pugh, along with a t-shirt signed by Team Wales Captain Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

And having witnessed our elite athletes in action in Melbourne, Sports Minister Alun Pugh touched down in time to oversee the morning activity at the Afan Lido.

Speaking at the event he said: "Our sports stars have the power to inspire and enthuse young people, and while only a select few can achieve the standards set by our elite, everyone can enjoy sport and the benefits it brings.

"Dragon Sport introduces children to sport at a basic fun and enjoyment level and works at broadening their sporting interest, which is one of the key aims of Climbing Higher – the Assembly Government sport and physical activity strategy I launched in 2003."