Monday, June 24, 2024

More than 1,000 kids across Los Angeles compete in model Olympic and Paralympic Games

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LOS ANGELES — Inside the gymnasium of the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex, the theme song of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics blasted through the speakers at center court.

Thousands of kids entered through the doors of the gym, holding the flags of different nations and sporting Olympic attire before getting ready to take part in their own set of Olympic events.

On Thursday, a group of more than 1,000 L.A. area youth athletes participated in the LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport. The model games included sports such as soccer, boxing and track and field.

Olympic medalists Carl Lewis, Janet Evans, Miles Chamley-Watson and Blake Leeper were among the athletes who participated in the event along with former Laker A.C. Green.

Evans said it was fun to see young athletes enjoy the sports she grew up watching and playing.

“It’s fun to understand that they will be at the same age-ish when the Games finally come to Los Angeles,” Evans said. “Hopefully they’ll be inspired not just in sports, but in other pursuits they may have in life.”

The International Olympic Committee decided to award Los Angeles the 2028 Summer Olympics as well as the 2028 Summer Paralympics back in July 2017, with the L.A. City Council approving the bid a month later.

The LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport is one of the first events to be held before the Olympics officially begin five years from now.

In addition to speaking at the event, the athletes who attended also helped by coaching the kids during each event.

Leeper said he was looking forward to the LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport even in the midst of training for the Paris 2023 Para Athletics World Championships.

“As a Paralympian, to see all these kids walking in with all the excitement, with different country flags, it’s so awesome,” Leeper said. “It’s so exciting seeing L.A. 2028 is here. This is going to be so big for the city.”

Leeper won a silver medal in the 400-meter T44 event at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and is heading to Paris next week to get ready for the world championships.

For many of the athletes and organizers, the event also served as a way to grow some of the Olympic sports with younger athletes.

Chamley-Watson said he hoped showing up to the LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport entices more kids to try fencing.

“It’s an opportunity to show students a niche sport. (The kids) can see someone who’s bigger than the sport and someone who’s just being themselves at the end of the day,” Chamley-Watson said.

Chamley-Watson said the 2028 Games will most likely be his last.

“It’s been incredible. I moved to L.A. and it’d be awesome to end my career in L.A.,” Chamley-Watson said.

Both Chamley-Watson and Leeper were both excited to see the Olympic legends that were in the building on Thursday.

Leeper grew up idolizing Lewis and studied his highlight tape throughout his childhood.

“I grew up watching Carl. He’s a legend,” Leeper said. “I couldn’t believe they introduced me before Carl. He’s one of the greatest track and field athletes in the world. … Just to stand next to him, it just like goes to show how far we’ve come in terms inclusion and inclusivity.”

Kathy Carter, LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games CEO, said that this will be just one of the events that will be held in the Los Angeles community before the games officially begin in 2028.

“It’s about showcasing what’s to come and it’s about giving people an opportunity in sports as a result of the Olympics and Paralympics coming to Los Angeles,” Carter said. “So for us, being in the community and really starting to engage in a way that people can start to visualize what will happen in 2028.”

From left, Olympians Janet Evans, Miles Chamley-Watson, Blake Leeper and Carl Lewis were among the speakers at the LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport on Thursday at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles. The event featured more than 1,000 kids competing in a model Olympic and Paralympic Games to celebrate the 2028 Games coming to Los Angeles. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
From left, Olympians Janet Evans, Miles Chamley-Watson, Blake Leeper and Carl Lewis were among the speakers at the LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Day of Sport on Thursday at the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex in Los Angeles. The event featured more than 1,000 kids competing in a model Olympic and Paralympic Games to celebrate the 2028 Games coming to Los Angeles. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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