By Tom Degun

para sports-doha_21-03-121March 22 - Preparations are now complete for the Qatar Olympic Committee's (QOC) Schools Olympic Programme finals festival at the Aspire Academy of Sports Excellence in Doha.

This year's edition of the Schools Olympic Programme has the theme "Sport and Family" which sees school boys and girls aged five to 18 competing for medals in the nine Olympic sports of athletics, volleyball, basketball, handball, table-tennis, fencing, gymnastics, swimming and football.

The events are currently in the knock-out stage of the competition and the conclusion of the overall Programme will take place on April 6 after a two day finals festival.

The 2012 edition of the Schools Olympic Programme has already been hailed a success as it has attracted over 19,000 participating young boys and girls, surpassing the record of 17,492 who were involved in 2011.

"Sport lies at the heart of Qatar's national vision and the Schools Olympic Programme is one of the exciting and engaging initiatives that we offer young people to help them lead healthy and fulfilling lives," said QOC general secretary Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

"Through the Programme, not only do thousands of young athletes have the chance to use state-of-the-art sporting facilities and advance their sporting talent, but they will also learn important Olympic values such as fair play and respect, helping to build a positive community spirit."

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The event has also received praise from the Doha 2020 team bidding for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"Every year, it is wonderful to see so many young athletes take part and enjoy the Schools Olympic Programme," said Doha 2020 chief executive Noora Al Mannai.

"Qatar wants to actively help children and young people be inspired to take up sport and pursue healthy lifestyle choices.

"With over 19,000 young participants in this year's competition, the Schools Olympic Programme is without doubt helping our nation realise this ambition."

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The Schools Olympic Programme also features a 'Paralympic and Special Day', a unique event that offers students with a disability the opportunity to take part in a variety of different sporting events, including a number Paralympic sports such as athletics sports and table-tennis.

It was held today and saw over 350 young athletes take part at the Qatar Sports Club.

"Sporting events such as today's allow for better integration of children with a disability whether they are active in sports or not, and allow them to see the extent of what they can achieve," added the Doha 2020 chief executive.

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