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Winners lead out Games hopefuls

23 July 2002

Excited youngsters gathered in Manchester today to find out which countries they will lead out in the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

City of Manchester Stadium

The brand new City of Manchester Stadium is the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies

The 72 young people - aged 11-16 - were all winners of a competition in which they had to describe what it meant to be a British citizen in 21st Century multi-cultural Britain, which was run by the Guardian Media Group, owners of the Manchester Evening News.

And to tell them which country they would lead out at the ceremony was Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist Sharron Davies.

Ms Davies who will be commentating for the BBC during the Games told the winners they have successfully captured how multi-culturalism enriches all our lives.

She told them: "Young people like you are our future and you have shown you understand what a multi-cultural society is all about. That's what makes you all unique, and I am sure like me you like to believe you are unique."

She told the winners how she valued people on an individual basis and how important it is not to judge others from their appearance.

Opening Ceremony at Kuala Lumpur

Scenes form the Opening Ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in 1998

As part of their once-in-a-lifetime prize the youngsters will spend the next four days in Manchester but the highlight will be leading the teams into the stadium on Thursday evening.

Ms Davies still remembers her own first entrance to a games stadium when she took part in the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

She said "It was awesome, I stood behind Princess Anne. It was just the noise as we walked through, the colours and it went by with such speed that I didn't take it all in."

"It will go so fast for these children. There is nothing quite like walking into a stadium packed full of people at such a high profile sporting event. A great memory for me was walking into my first stadium. The noise was incredible."

"I am delighted to support these kids and know they will hold on to this memory for years to come."

Since arriving in the city last night the youngsters have already met athlete John Regis and members of the Canadian hockey team.

Among the winners is Anouska Rallan, aged 13, from Sale, who impressed the panel of judges - including Lord David Putman and Secretary of State Estelle Morris - with her essay.

She found out today that she will escort the team from the island state of Tuvalu in the West Pacific Ocean. Although she had no idea where the country is, she plans to become their biggest fan.

"This is a chance of a lifetime," she said.

Also among the winners was Harry Fitzwilliam-Pipe, aged 12, from Heaton Mersey, Stockport, who will lead out Zambia.

Twenty of the remaining winners were from Southlands High School, in Chorley.

All the entries - including paintings, essays and drawings - completed by youngsters as part of the competition will be displayed during the Games in Sportscity, where it will be seen by athletes, the media and visitors from around the world.

In addition GMG is also planning to publish a book of the winning entries.

GMG Chief Executive Bob Phillis, who was one of the judges, said "GMG is very proud to be able to offer this unique opportunity to young people across the country. The winners have shown great creativity, honesty and passion through their work. Now it is time to have some fun - I hope they enjoy the thrill of the Opening Ceremony.''

Mr Phillis said that the work of the youngsters showed an understanding of society and what life is all about.

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