A DEFIANT cloud of multi coloured balloons, set against rain filled skies, gave an uplifting start to the annual Saddleworth Village Olympics.

Up to 1,000 children, aged from seven to 16, representing 13 villages gathered at Saddleworth School for the launch of a marathon series of sporting challenges which will roll out over three weeks.

Backed by scores of enthusiastic parents and loyal supporters, the children marched the schools playing area proudly carrying their village banners, flags and mascots.

After the reading of the Olympics oath by Dylan Reading, who was competing for Delph and Denshaw, the games were officially opened by Richard Foster, chairman of Saddleworth Round Table.

He presented the games committee with a cheque for £1,280 which will provide medals for every participant in the games.

Mr Foster said: “We are delighted to continue our long association with Olympics by sponsoring the competitors medals.

“I'd like to thank all those who have supported our events over the years because without you we wouldn't be able to contribute and support fantastic local events like the Olympics which are at the heart of our community.”

Earlier, addressing the crowd, Adrian Green, co-chairman of the Olympics, commented last year’s opening ceremony was cancelled because of bad weather.

“I looked out of my window this morning and I was a bit nervous we would have to do the same thing – but we managed to go ahead,” he said.

He thanked and praised local businesses and sponsors for their support, children and parents for getting involved, and the team of dedicated volunteers for superhuman efforts staging the event.

Saddleworth School itself is the sporting hub but many events but will be taking place at Churchill Playing Fields, Saddleworth Pool, Tame Valley Tennis & Squash Club, Saddleworth Rangers and Uppermill Sports Club.

Hockey was recognised being a fully-fledged sport for children aged between 10 and 13 years, and the tug of war made a debut with the trophy has been named in memory of the games former chairman Ben Hilton who was a major figure in running the Olympics from 2000-2010. It was presented to the winners by Ben’s wife Bev.

And for the first time this year the overall winners trophy will be split between the Junior and Senior age groups, so villages will have two chances to become the overall Olympic village.

The organisers are canvassing opinion from parents and participants on the event’s future by completing a short survey online: https://goo.gl/forms/8M5sYv6B8vFY8udq1

For this year’s results go to www.saddleworthvillageolympics.co.uk/results-2017.

For a full schedule of events and more information on the games visit www.saddleworthvillageolympics.co.uk.