Young athletes on their marks for Don Valley farewell

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More than 1,600 young athletes from across the country will compete in Sheffield this weekend - some of them in the last major sports event at Don Valley Stadium.

The four day Sainsbury’s School Games, starting today (Thursday), aim to encourage students to perform at the highest levels. Seven hundred coaches, support staff and volunteers will be with them.

Eight venues are being used including Ponds Forge, iceSheffield, the English Institute of Sport, Abbeydale Sports Ground for sports such as swimming, hockey, judo, gymnastics, badminton and cycling. There will be disability events in athletics, fencing, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball.

Significantly, among the locations is Don Valley, which is due to close for good at the end of the month after 22 years, amid controversy over the council’s withdrawal of financial support.

The authority continues to prepare for a seamless switch to Woodbourn Athletics Stadium, although a campaign group headed by former athlete Lewis Samuel has not given up all hope of saving Don Valley. The council has until September 25 to approve or reject a community asset transfer bid from the group.

Mr Samuel said: “We’ve had meetings with the council and they’ve been co-operative, telling us all the facts and figures.”

But he admitted: “It is a massive task.”

If closure is signed and sealed, the last event at Don Valley will be a bonsai exhibition on September 29, which is also the last day that the public will be able to use the leisure facilities.

Then the landmark is likely to be demolished within a few months, and events such as the School Games will have to find another home.