The London Youth Games returns with the popular Cross Country event across Hampstead Heath’s challenging Parliament Hill course. But how has the two year absence of this event affected participation and how is Covid-19 changing the way local sports can be run?


The London Youth Games are one of London’s most popular and successful events for youth sports. Since 1977, the Games have encouraged inclusivity via a variety of sporting activities ranging from archery to badminton to boccia. However, the Cross Country event has always been a firm favourite as it kick-starts the London Youth Games season. 


During the pandemic, in 2020, a virtual Nike X LYG Cross Country event took place which was an effective way to maintain young people’s engagement in sport, especially in the difficult times of lockdown. However, nothing can compare to the lively atmosphere that over a thousand excited, young children bring to the startline.


On Saturday 20th November, over 1200 of London’s promising young athletes all gathered once again at the bottom of Parliament Hill. The borough of Bromley emerged victorious, achieving gold in both the male and female team awards. In all 8 races the athletes traversed the hilly and muddy terrain of Parliament Hill’s fields which are like a pocket of refreshing nature amid the bustling capital.


The worry of many parents and children alike surrounds Covid-19’s long-lasting impact on local sports and unfortunately London Youth Games’ return did not escape unscathed from the effects of the pandemic.


Kingston-Upon-Thames’ team organiser, Martel Atterbury, has felt, “numbers have reduced dramatically and the amount of athletes withdrawing at short notice has increased for Kingston”. She hopes, “this will only be in the short term and as we adjust to living with the virus we will see numbers increase again.” The decrease in participation could be due to fears of using public transport as local cases appear to be rising. She also shares the issue of a lack of staff through contraction of the virus and being pinged via Track and Trace.


John Burton, Head Organiser of Operations and Events for the Games, shares insight into the precautions that were taken behind the scenes that included: “pre-event testing for all staff and volunteers”. Extra measures such as social distancing, use of hand sanitisers and lessened touches of equipment are also being enforced to allow youth sports to continue. Additionally, outdoor venues are preferred to allow for more ventilation. 


In the new year, the London Youth Games have numerous sporting events taking place and if you are a parent of a young person in London or a teenager yourself, I would grab the opportunity to join in the fun. The Games have always been beginner friendly and welcoming to any new athletes who want to give something new a try. They benefit local children socially and physically all while being cost-free. You can find more information on the Games and their sporting calendar on: