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IAAF organises children's cross community event in Belfast with Tony Banks and Mo Mowlam

IAAF will organise cross community event for children in Belfast with Tony Banks and Mo Mowlam as special guests

18 March 1999 – Monte Carlo – Following up on the successful launch of the first-ever IAAF "Fun in Athletics" event for children in Soweto, South Africa on September 10 1998, a new cross community initiative for children is now underway in Ulster and the Republic of Ireland.

On the recommendation of IAAF President Primo Nebiolo, and with the support of the International Athletic Foundation, the project will climax with a Final - the "Children’s Friendship Games" - in Belfast from 10:30 a.m. on March 26, a day before the start of the championships.

"The IAAF decided to automatically award Belfast the right to hold the 1999 World Cross Country Championships in 1995, as a way of showing the World Athletic Family’s support of the initiatives which culminated in last year’s historic Peace Agreement," said Dr Nebiolo earlier today. "We see the Children’s Friendship Games as an extension of this desire by bringing Irish children from north and south of the border together – regardless of their religious backgrounds – as well as to promote athletics, and sport in general, as a force for good. Northern Ireland deserves the right to enter a new era of peace and prosperity and we believe sport can be a key instrument in achieving this aim. Each team in the Final will be made up of equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants."

The IAAF has been working closely with representatives of local athletic clubs, schools, sports councils and authorities. The project was launched in January 12 at the Maysfield Sports Centre and was attended by a number of local dignitaries including John McFall (Minister of Sport and Education) and The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Belfast, David Alderdice.

Since then, Trial Events have taken place in eight towns in Northern Ireland - Bangor, Belfast, Derry City, Enniskillen, Larne, Magherafelt, Omah and Portadown - as well as in Donegal and Dublin in the Irish Republic – leading up to the Grand Final in the Maysfield Sports Centre. Around 5000 school children - aged 9 and 10 - have participated so far from all sections of the community.

British Sports Minister Tony Banks, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam and a number of top athletes will attend the Final.

A bus will be available for journalists from the main Press Hotel – The Europa – to the Maysfield Sports centre and back again in time for the official IAAF Press Conference.