VISUALLY impaired people will take to the field in Metro Blind Sport’s milestone 40th Anniversary Athletics Open this weekend.
Competitors aged 8-80 will show off their skills in running, jumping and throwing at Mile End Stadium – where it all started 40 years ago – on Saturday.
Metro held the first athletics event specifically for visually impaired people at Mile End Stadium in 1977.
Roy Smith MBE, Director of Sport Development at Metro Blind Sports and director of the games, said the 40th anniversary was a big milestone for Metro Blind Sport.
Roy, who will be competing in his 39th Metro Games and is a former Paralympian, said the games and sport were life changing for people with sight loss.
“I lost my eye sight in the early 70s and it was sport that rescued me from a very serious depression,” he said.
“It helped my mobility and my confidence, and I met other peers.”
Roy said it was important for visually impaired people to have outlets, such as the Metro Games, to be active, play sport and meet other people with sight loss.
“It’s different, the games are different, the balls are different but you’re still getting out there and doing things you enjoy.”
Mike Brace CBE, the Vice President of Metro and a founder of Metro, said the Metro Games had been held in at least five different venues over the years, had competitors from countries outside the UK including South Africa, Australia, Norway and Holland participate and by the end of the 40th games will have had over 3500 athletes compete.
Mike, who has competed in all of the games and is a former Paralympian, said the games were used as the main trials event for athletes qualifying for international selection.
“We introduced qualified AAA athletics officials to run the event and recognised time-keeping protocols to meet the high standards now demanded at Paralympic level.
“Metro has produced more VI athletes who have gone on to represent Great Britain then any other club.”
Mike said one of his lasting memories of the games was talking to a youngster who had just won his first medal.
“He was in mainstream school and was usually left out of the sports events at school. The sense of pride and self-achievement he exuded was so tangible and infectious. I remembered when I was 10 and lost my sight and how people seemed to only see my disability and not my ability. Sport, through Metro, has allowed me to travel the world, represent my country, be part of the Olympic and Paralympic bid and still have the wish to compete well into my sixties.”
The Anniversary Athletics Games are at Mile End Stadium, Rhodeswell Road, London E14 7TW, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, June 25.
For more information, visit metroblindsport.org