Donald MacIntyre
The Independent
June 10, 2010 - 12:00am

London 2012 it isn't. But on Sunday a relay of 50 schoolchildren bearing an Olympic-style torch will start from Deir el Balah Elementary Boy's School in central Gaza on the 17km road journey along the Mediterranean coast to the UN compound in Gaza City. There, they will light a flame, less to commemorate the notorious white phosphorus bombardment which razed the main warehouse here during Israel's military offensive in January 2009, than to herald the start of something altogether more cheerful: the fourth annual summer games.

Throughout the summer a total of 250,000 children will be brought together every day – girls and boys in separate groups in deference to Gaza's traditionally conservative culture – for a fortnight by the UN Refugee agency UNRWA for something that John Ging, its Gaza Operations Director, points out is all-too rare in Gaza: "a moment of childhood and happiness".

The children of all ages will enjoy diverse supervised activities including drama, traditional dances like Dabka, swimming, sandcastle building, bouncy castles, volleyball, football, painting and origami. Having last year won a certified Guinness World Record for the most people flying kites at one time, the children will next month attempt another: the largest number – probably more than 6,000 – to bounce basketballs simultaneously.


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