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Olympians join coventry schools to celebrate rugby's return to the olympics at RIO 2016 as part of olympic day

Seven GB Olympians were joined by 400 Coventry schoolchildren to celebrate Olympic Day by taking part in a city-wide rugby 7s festival.

The festival, which took place at Grace Academy Coventry in Wigston Road, was attended by 37 city schools and organised to celebrate the inclusion of rugby 7s in the Olympics for the first time at Rio 2016.

Home-grown Coventry Olympians Dave Moorcroft - former 5,000m record holder and triple Olympian - and double Olympic marathon runner Dave Long both attended the event, which was the culmination of the World Olympic Association-led World Fit pilot initiative.

The initiative saw Olympians work as ambassadors in schools over six weeks to encourage and inspire young people to lead active and healthy lifestyles by taking part in a ‘Walk to Rio’ to cover 5,777 miles – the distance from Coventry to Rio.

Also involved with the pilot – and attending the festival - was former marathon star Bill Adcocks, middle distance runner Sheila Carey, British Water Polo team member Fran Clayton, who competed at London 2012, swimmer Jo Deakins and long-distance runner Dick Taylor.

Tom Clift, programme manager for education sports programme Engage! which organised the rugby 7s festival, said:

Rugby has been absent from the Olympics for more than 90 years so it was fantastic to be able to celebrate the sport’s landmark return in the form of rugby 7s to the games, at Grace Academy Coventry.

More than 400 pupils from primary and secondary schools engaged with activities both at the festival and throughout the initiative, keen to demonstrate their enthusiasm and inspired by the Olympians’ achievements which they’d learnt so much about over the previous six weeks.

The festival enabled tag rugby, full contact and mixed touch to be played and was part of the recently launched City of Rugby initiative, which aims to increase participation in the game in Coventry from grassroots level up – and so the festival was the ideal opportunity for children to experience the sport and continue to take it forward.

Throughout the day, children were able to try what was, to some, a new sport and learn the core values of rugby such as respect, teamwork and discipline. In keeping with the Olympic Day theme, gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the winning teams.

Double Olympian Long said:

It never ceases to amaze us the esteem in which Olympians are held – especially when donning the tracksuit and visiting schools – and it’s been a pleasure for the GB Olympians organisation to be involved with the World Fit pilot.

The GB Olympians is a valuable resource of experience and know-how, so as well as raising awareness of the physical benefits of sport we have also been able to espouse the Olympian values which separate the Games from other events.

Encouragingly several children mentioned that they had taken the World Fit concept out of the playground and encouraged parents and siblings to have a go.

Dave Turner, PE teacher at Grace Academy Coventry, added:

We are honoured to have been able to offer our excellent facilities to host the first ever city wide rugby 7’s festival – it’s an exciting opportunity for all students and schools involved.

It will raise the profile of rugby among students and, potentially, lead to both boys and girls taking up the sport on a more regular basis.

It also gave our students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills by coaching younger students in the game, leading training and warm up sessions, and refereeing games in the competition.

President Kennedy Secondary School were winners of the boys contact festival, Willenhall Primary School were winners of the primary tag rugby 7’s festival and Cardinal Newman Secondary School were winners of the mixed touch rugby festival.