A community sporting event inspired by the Olympics is back for its third year in Wythenshawe – and is aiming to beat its record of getting 10,000 residents to take part in its fitness and cultural programme.
The first Wythenshawe Games was a nine-day community replica of London 2012. The event was so popular – even attracting an 83-year-old ‘virtual’ boxing granny – that more than 10,000 Wythenshawe residents took to the tracks or joined in the cultural celebrations.
Two years on and the benefits of the Games are still being felt. Organisers say in the first year alone 92 per cent of participants who worked for a personal best continued with their sport until the second Wythenshawe Games. During last year’s event 1,000 people also visited the health zone and 271 people had health checks.
Even Wythenshawe Hall – which had previously been closed – received an Olympic shot in the arm as the Games triggered the formation of a friends group, who helped to see the hall reopen once a month to the public.
And now, this third free event, running from Saturday 26 July – Friday 1 August in Wythenshawe Park, is not only part of the Olympic legacy, but also a way of boosting health in the area.
This year’s health zone will give free health checks, advice on children’s teeth, cancer support and a whole range of diet and fitness information. Health professionals will be on hand from Public Health Manchester, South Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Macmillan Cancer Support and South Manchester Healthy Living Network.
Councillor Rosa Battle, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council, said: “The last two years have shown how sport can unite an entire community, regardless of age and fitness levels. All the sports in the event are available through community groups in the town, so people have been able to continue with a hobby which will also have big health benefits.”
Cllr Paul Andrews, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, continued: “The health bus will be in Wythenshawe Park and will continue with its vital work to look after heart and general health. Four years ago a Wythenshawe resident’s life was saved by the bus when it picked up a potentially fatal heart condition. This experience inspired the Games organisers to think of a wider sport and health event which could help the whole community.”
Dr Bill Tamkin, a GP and chair of South Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our staff will be on hand throughout the whole event -and will be able to tell families about new developments we are trying in Wythenshawe – including ways of keeping older people fitter and out of hospital.”
This year, there will be the traditional running, football and tennis sessions, to the more unusual sports like dodgeball, korfball and martial arts. Special events include an over 50s day, under 5s events, and a disability ‘sport for all’ day. There will also be a ‘teen takeover’every evening from 4pm- 7pm for 11-19 year olds.The final weekend dubbed ‘Wythenshawe Together’ will be a community event on 2-3 August, also in Wythenshawe Park.
The event has been organised via a public sector collaboration including Manchester City Council, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, South Manchester CCG, The Manchester College, Wythenshawe Forum Trust and Manchester Health and Wellbeing Service.
Nigel Wilson, Chief executive from Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, said: “This whole project shows the power of the public sector working together to pool its expertise. Even though this is fun event, there is a serious message about how being involved in a sport helps you physically, mentally and socially.”