Children as young as eight got their first taste of competitive athletics in an internationally-recognised venue yesterday.
More than 1,200 pupils from 46 schools battled it out at Gateshead International Stadium, home to several celebrated events in the sport.
After an opening ceremony, the first event was started by Maggie Atkinson, group director of learning and children at Gateshead council. She said: "Yesterday's festival was one of many sporting events that we provide for young children to enhance their sporting experiences and hopefully encourage them to participate in worthwhile physical activity in their leisure time.
"An exciting future lies ahead for young people with the benefit of London being awarded the 2012 Olympics together with the recent news that Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland will share the fifth UK School Games in 2010."
Among the events on show were short sprints, skipping races, long jump and "turbo" javelin - a safer version of the field discipline.
Physical Education and Sport Adviser for the Gateshead Raising Achievement Service, Alun Davies was excited at the prospect of generating enthusiasm for athletics ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
He said: "It is the first taste of competitive athletics for most of the kids. We're very fortunate in Gateshead to have access to the stadium. It was a wonderful opportunity for these children.
"They might have seen people like Jonathan Edwards competing here and hopefully it will inspire them with the UK school games round the corner as well." Another supporter of the event was Councillor David Lynn, Mayor of Gateshead, who performed the official opening ceremony.
He said: "I was pleased to see young people from throughout the borough of Gateshead competing in this annual and very successful event.
"Athletics is a great form of exercise for all ages and Gateshead Council were delighted to see so many young people involved."