Hansard - International Children's Games

Tonight I talk about the International Children's Games about which I spoke briefly in my inaugural speech. In 23 days Lake Macquarie will host the International Children's Games. The people of the Charlestown electorate are getting excited about the games and the visitors from 80 cities representing 30 countries across the world. The International Children's Games is the largest multisport youth games in the world and is a recognised member of the International Olympic Committee. Approximately 1,500 athletes between 12 and 15 years of age and their coaches will participate in this prestigious event. It is a competition between cities, not between countries, which really enhances the feel of cultural understanding that the games seek to foster.

The International Children's Games goes back to the Cold War in 1968 when a physical education teacher living in Slovenia, which was then part of Yugoslavia, had a vision to encourage peace and goodwill amongst children of different cultural backgrounds. From the inaugural games in which nine towns took part, the International Children's Games has grown into an impressive event, with more than 400 cities from five continents participating, and embracing the original idea to promote peace and understanding. Lake Macquarie was the first Australian city to participate in the International Children's Games, competing in San Francisco in 2008, and is the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to host the games. The sports that the athletes will compete in include swimming, gymnastics, track and field, football, sailing, water polo, golf, and, in an International Children's Games first, BMX in Argenton, which is in the electorate of the member for Wallsend.

In addition to competition there will be a significant social component to allow the young athletes to get to know one another and to learn about each other's cultures and, in particular, our Australian culture. They will enjoy an evening at Blacksmiths Beach, an outdoor movie night, an Olympic-style opening ceremony with fantastic Australian talent, and a closing ceremony with entertainment and dancing. There is a requirement for the accommodation to be an Olympic-style village, so the accommodation will be at the University of Newcastle and Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Camp. I thank both of those organisations for their support. A few weeks ago the torch relay really enthused a lot of the schoolchildren in the area—26 schools from the Lake Macquarie region participated. Schools from Charlestown included Cardiff North Public School, Charlestown Public School, Eleebana Public School, St Kevin's Primary School at Cardiff, St Paul's Primary School at Gateshead and Windale Public School. The schools and schoolchildren certainly are excited about the International Children's Games being held in the region.

Last weekend the International Children's Games Technical Commission visited Lake Macquarie and gave the Forty-eighth International Children's Games the tick of approval after its site visit. The International Children's Games Secretary General, Richard Smith, the Vice-President, Igor Topole, and the Chairman of the Technical Commission, Zlatko Kauran, were extremely pleased with the preparations for this event. After meeting with the games' technical directors and touring the facilities where athletes will compete, the Technical Commission signed off on our preparations for the games. This is a very exciting result for the people of Lake Macquarie and Charlestown as the hard work and preparation has paid off. We now just have to wait until the athletes, coaches and supporters from around the world descend on our region.

To give the House an overview of those coming, they include the following numbers of cities to be represented: 14 from Australia; six each from Canada, Mexico and the United States of America; four each from Pakistan, Slovenia and Switzerland; three each from Hungary, Israel and Russia; two each from Austria, China, Germany, Greece, India and Taiwan; and one from each of Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Scotland, South Korea, Thailand and Ukraine. It truly is an international event. The local people are getting excited about the games being held in only 23 days, and we have over 600 volunteers who happen to be receiving training tonight. The local media is promoting it really well. I encourage members to be part of the International Children's Games being held for the first time in New South Wales and the Southern Hemisphere.