Barking and Dagenham becomes first borough to pull out of London Youths Games

An Olympic borough has come under criticism after becoming the first to drop out of youth games that have produced a string of international sports stars.

Barking and Dagenham Council sparked anger yesterday following the announcement it was leaving the London Youth Games, which has helped to propel the careers of Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins, footballers Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand and running legend Linford Christie.

More than 100,000 young people participated in the Youth Games this year and 44 former participants took part in the 2012 London Olympics, winning 14 medals.

The Labour council said it had decided to pull out of the event because of the “high cost” but its organisers said the entrance fee was just �7,200.

A spokesman for the London Youth Games said: “We think the decision to withdraw puts the legacy of 2012 under serious risk for young people in Barking and Dagenham.

“We are a bit disappointed. This is a great opportunity for young people to get involved in sport.”

The London Youth Games were launched to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

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They have pitted the skills of thousands of young Londoners aged seven to 18 in 80 events, including mainstream athletics and sports and seven disability sports.

The Labour council said it had used the saved funding to organise a two-day sports tournament in June at Mayesbrook Park in Dagenham, which was an official Olympic training venue during the London Olympics.

More than 400 sportsmen and women of all abilities are expected to take part in the Barking and Dagenham Community Games on June 28 and 29.

A council spokesman said: “The council took the decision to pull out of the London Youth Games in October, following discussions with the organisers.

“This was because of the high cost of taking part. We believe there are much better ways of getting more young people in Barking and Dagenham involved in sport and physical activity.

“We are proud of our role as an Olympic host borough and the Community Games will be an ideal opportunity for people to use the world-class facilities in Mayesbrook Park.”