Primary school pupils from across Aberdeen had a ball this week at the culmination of a unique sports and health project for children in the Granite City, cheered on by Chair of UK Sport Dame Katherine Grainger DBE.

Around 1,400 pupils from 45 city primary schools converged on Aberdeen Sports Village on Friday 25 May, as the annual Aberdeen Youth Games culminated in a Festival of Sport.

Dame Katherine Grainger DBE said: “It is wonderful to see so many young people taking part in such a variety of sports and physical activities across the day. Their enjoyment today was clear, and I hope that enthusiasm for sport and physical activity is something they each take forward beyond this festival.

“I must also give huge credit to the coaches from RGU and NESCol, who have inspired so many young people and helped them with their passion for sport.”

This year’s event also saw the launch of the national Big Fit Walk – taking place for the first time in the North-East – with around 100 walkers joining the youngsters for Scotland’s biggest daily mile, before continuing their own route around Old Aberdeen.

Launched by Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Sport and Exercise Science team and Sport Aberdeen in 2013 – with support from North East Scotland College (NESCol) and The Wood Foundation – the Aberdeen Youth Games is an innovative and multi award-winning programme which promotes physical activity, health and wellbeing amongst young people.

At the festival, pupils participated in a number of team-based sporting activities, such as rugby, basketball and tennis. Each activity used the skills they have learned from in-school coaching by RGU and NESCol students over the course of the term.

Graeme Dale, Senior Development Manager (Young People) with Sport Aberdeen, said: “The Aberdeen Youth Games has become a hugely anticipated and enjoyable event in Aberdeen’s sporting calendar.

“The games underline the importance of keeping young people active in a fun environment, and our partnership with RGU and NESCol encourages a healthy lifestyle and helps get more children, more active, more often.

“In the Year of Young People, there’s no better time to celebrate our fantastic young role models who are inspiring others to take part in and enjoy sport and physical activity.”

Dame Katherine Grainger DBE returned to the festival this year to cheer on the pupils, having been an inspirational ambassador for the Aberdeen Youth Games since its launch.

Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian was joined by fellow ambassador and supporter Sir Ian Wood CBE, as well as invited guests including Maureen Watt MSP and Commonwealth Games participants from RGU, NESCol and the University of Aberdeen.

A Legacy 2014 programme, the Aberdeen Youth Games initiative sees second year BSc (Hons) Applied Sport and Exercise Science students from RGU deliver over 900 hours of skills-based coaching to pupils as part of their work placements with Sport Aberdeen’s Active Schools Team.

Bryan McCann, lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at RGU, leads the university’s involvement in the programme.

He said: “The Aberdeen Youth Games is made possible by our exciting and innovative partnership approach to allow students to act as community assets. It provides them with invaluable work-related, real-life learning opportunities, which enhances their employability whilst making a huge difference to the lives of young people in Aberdeen.

“Having so many primary schools taking part again this year – along with launching alongside the incredible Big Fit Walk – just goes to show the powerful and positive impact that sport and exercise can have on society.

“Add in the valuable bonus that the young people can interact with Dame Katherine and Commonwealth Games heroes from all of the city’s higher education institutions and it all adds up to a fantastic day for everyone involved.”

Ian Findlay, Chief Officer at Paths For All said: “Launching the Big Fit Walk is one of the highlights of our year because it sees communities, groups and individuals come together to enjoy the many benefits of simply going for a 30-minute walk.

“Last year, over 200 walks took place across the country involving people of every ages and ability.

“Paths For All are committed to promoting everyday walking as one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health and wellbeing through physical activity. The Big Fit Walk is a great way for us to spread this message, bring people together and nourish a sense of community.

“We’re so pleased to have kick started this year’s campaign with all the young people involved in the Aberdeen Youth Games, and we hope this year will be bigger and better than ever before.”

Maureen Watt MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Mental Health, visited Aberdeen Sports Village to launch the Big Fit Walk and to see the Youth Games youngsters in full flow.

She said: “The scale and impact of the Aberdeen Youth Games has been very impressive since its launch in 2013. Not only does it provide the young people involved with important life and sporting skills, it does so in a fun and active setting.

“As we celebrate the Year of Young People, partnership-led programmes like this can create a really beneficial culture amongst the next generation, with physical activity and a sense of community at its centre.”

Funding for the 2017-18 Aberdeen Youth Games has been provided by The Wood Foundation, the RGU Foundation and First Aberdeen, with the latter also committing transportation and logistical assistance for schools to and from the festival.

In 2015, The Wood Foundation committed to provide £50,000 to the Aberdeen Youth Games over a five-year period, following an initial £10,000 award to support the scheme.

Sir Ian Wood, Chairman of The Wood Foundation, added: “The scale and impact of AYG activity across Aberdeen City is impressive. The programme provides significant benefits to participating young people across all Aberdeen primary schools, whilst also providing invaluable work experience for our university and college students who have been so actively involved in the coaching.

“AYG provides both sets of learners with the opportunity to develop new skills and the focus upon nutrition and healthy lifestyle for the young people through fun activities is invaluable. The Wood Foundation is pleased to continue to support this initiative.”

Find out more about the Aberdeen Youth Games.