Tyne & Wear

World Transplant Games get under way in North East

World Transplant Games
Image caption The games began with a road race in Newcastle's Exhibition Park

Competitors from 56 countries have travelled to north-east England for the 22nd World Transplant Games.

People who have had organ or tissue transplants, and live donors, are taking part in sports including tennis, athletics, football and archery.

Participants are aged between four and 80 years old and include a father who donated an organ to his son.

Ex-England footballer Andrew Cole, who has had an organ transplant, described the participants as "inspirational".

Image caption Andrew Cole described it as "inspirational" to be at the games

The event was founded in 1978 to encourage patients to regain fitness and champion the value of donation.

Among those attending the launch was former Manchester United and Newcastle United striker Cole, who had a kidney transplant when he fell seriously ill in 2015.

The 47-year-old said: "When they all get together they're like one big family.

"They've all been through the same thing; they all understand each other.

"And being with them today, that's been inspirational."

'Gift of life'

Bert Hartman, who donated a kidney to his son, travelled from the Netherlands to take part and said it was "very special" to be at the event as a live donor.

"To see all the people from all around the world with a new organ, to see that they are still living, have a new life, it's beautiful."

His son, Tim Hartman, who competed in the cycling and relay races, said: "It's really great to be here in the UK for this - so many people taking part, all the volunteers too - it's wonderful."

Image caption Constance Sithebe has travelled from South Africa to participate in the games

Constance Sithebe, a kidney recipient from South Africa, said the games were about celebrating the "gift of life".

She said: "The reason we're here is because we would like to show the world that we can still do it. Even after a transplantation one can still be a normal person."

The games are taking place at sporting venues in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland until Friday.

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