Inaugural Inter-Island Games - Isle of Man 1985
Thursday 18th - Wednesday 24th July 1985
The concept of 15 small islands from as far apart as Iceland in the northern hemisphere to St. Helena in the South Atlantic, coming together for a unique international festival of sport, generated a great deal of interest and excitement, and captured the imagination of both the local population and the national media alike. Headlines appeared such as ‘ONE GIANT STEP’ . . . ‘A DREAM COMES TRUE’ . . .and in one of the nationals, ‘SMALL ISLANDS MINI OLYMPICS’.
After some two years of planning and preparation, not to mention countless committee meetings, it was a relief when the 15 teams arrived by sea and air, including the small team from St. Helena who had travelled some 5,000 miles to participate in the Games. The R.A.E flew the party from Ascension Island on the 22nd June, and their return journey by sea on the RMS St. Helena departed Avonmouth on the 5th September! It was evident from day one that there was a common will and determination that the Games should succeed, and the friendly atmosphere and togetherness became a very pleasing feature throughout the Games week. A telegram of con gratulations was received from Mr Peter Hulme, the Isle of Man Government Secretary which read: “Congratulations from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions and its Island Commission. All wishes of success for this remarkable attempt to foster new links between the regions of Europe”.
The Isle of Man Government’s commitment and generous funding for they Year of Sport had an important bearing on accommodation costs for the visiting teams. The Executive Committee decided that each of the 14 visiting islands, would be offered free accommodation for up to a maximum of 50 members. This amounted to £36,000 of the total costs of £70,000 to stage the Games, plus £2,000 in local sponsorship. This was meant as a gesture of goodwill, and was not intended in any way to set a precedent, for at this stage of the planning it was not known if there would be another Island Games.
All the teams were accommodated in hotels along the Douglas sea front, within easy walking distance of the Summerland Leisure Complex, the Games HQ, an ideal venue for meeting, socialising, or buying souvenirs from the Games shop. Coaches were also able to stop outside the hotels when picking up competitors and taking them to and from the various sports venues around the Island. The efficient transport arrangements all added to the smooth running of the Games.
The organisers recognised that the Games week should be also enjoyed by members of the community, and every effort was made to encourage their support and involvement, so there was free admission to all sporting venues, and the crowds made their contribution to the atmosphere and excitement of these keenly contested competitions. Truly a festival of sport for all to enjoy!
THURSDAY EVENING 18th JULY
At 7.30 pm all teams and officials assembled on the Piazza Level at Summerland to enjoy a reception given by the Isle of Man Sports Council. This was followed at 9.00 p.m. by a business meeting for all Team Managers, when details were circulated and a briefing given on the arrangements for the Opening Ceremony which was to take place the following afternoon. A further meeting was then held by the seven sporting co-ordinators to discuss technical matters with visiting Team Managers and Coaches, and great importance was given to these meetings, so that everyone was very clear on the organisation and rules/laws for each sport and details of the day to day programme.
On arrival Team Managers were issued with an information pack, including a distinctive personal identity badge for each competitor and official, a Year of Sport pennant, a presentation stamped envelope (below) with a silk badge depicting the seven sports and a 1985 Games souvenir programme. Patron of the 1985 Year of Sport, Sir Nigel Cecil K.B.E., C.B., Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man in his message of welcome in the Games programme wrote: “I extend, on behalf of the people of the Isle of Man, a very warm welcome to all our fellow islanders from the Aland Islands, Anglesey, Faroes, FrØya, Gotland, Guernsey, Hitra, Iceland, Jersey, Malta, the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, St. Helena and the Isle of Wight. The concept of holding these Island Games within our Year of Sport, and bringing us all together, is a splendid one. I am sure they will be a great success and be conducted in a very real spirit of enjoyment, friendship and good sportsmanship. At the same time we will learn much about the history, traditions and customs of each other’s island homes. You will all be able to share that mutual appreciation and understanding of island life that draws all islanders together in a bond of very special friendship. I congratulate everybody involved in making these Games possible. I hope you will all have a very happy time while in our midst and I wish all the competitors every success in their endeavours.”
FRIDAY 19th JULY
The morning was spent with competitors doing their final training preparations at the various sports venues.
All teams and officials assembled at the Sea Terminal and were soon arranged in parade order. The Isle of Man massed bands were conducted and led by Major Thirtle and Gordon Astill. At precisely 2.00 pm the parade of teams marched off along the promenade to the stirring sound of the marching tunes played by the bands.
The 15 teams paraded in alphabetical order with Aland in the front, and the host team, the Isle of Man at the rear. Each island was led by a member of the world championship Rushen Majorettes, holding a sign board showing the name of the island team that followed, and then behind her the island’s flag bearer, proudly carrying their national flag. It was truly a sunshine opening; a magnificent colourful sight, on what was a perfect summer’s day, with the flags fluttering in the light breeze, and this unique parade was watched by thousands of locals and visitors, clearly fascinated by the hundreds of athletes proceeding along the promenade, and not always knowing the geographical position of some of the islands that were taking part! Meanwhile back at the Villa Marina Gardens large crowds were also gathering.
At 2.40 pm prompt the band played the National Anthem (The Queen) when His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor Sir Nigel Cecil and Lady Cecil arrived. They were met by Chairman Mr. Noel Cringle M.H.K. and then proceeded to the platform in the Garden Pavilion, which was beautifully decorated with flowers for the occasion. The crowds relaxing in the warm sunshine were being entertained by a fine display of precision marching and counter marching by the Rushen Majorettes, then a superb gymnastic display by the Faroese men and ladies team, a performance of Manx traditional dances by schoolchildren in costume and finally, as a contrast, the delightful singing of the Glenfaba Ladies Choir.
The sound of the bands could now be heard as they approached the entrance to the Villa Marina, and the procession moved into the spacious and attractive gardens, passing in front of the platform party where the flag bearers saluted the Lieutenant Governor. An excellent commentary was given by Peter Kneale who announced as each team arrived, the name of the flag bearer and Team Manager, also the sports in which the team would be participating. The crowd responded with loud cheers and applause, giving a truly warm welcome to all our visitors.
The teams lined up in a semi-circle facing the platform party, and then Mr Noel Cringle M.H.K., Chairman of the Games Committee, welcomed all the competitors and officials to the Isle of Man and invited the Lieutenant Governor Sir Nigel Cecil, K.B.E., C.B., to officially open the First Inter Island Games. He expressed his delight at the Games being held in the Isle of Man, and stated that during his naval career, he had visited or seen all of the 15 islands who were competing in the Games. He was sure that the Games would be conducted in a very real spirit of enjoyment, friendship and good sportsmanship, and wished success to all concerned in the Games. He then officially declared the First Island Games open!
A member of the Manx team, Sian Pilling, then took the oath on behalf of all competitors: “We declare that we will take part in the Inter-Island Games of 1985, in the spirit of true sportsmanship, recognising the rules which govern them, and desirous of participating in them, for the honour of our islands and the glory of sport”.
Then followed a fanfare, and the new Island Games Association flag was raised for the first time by the late Mr George Fathers. This flag will be flown at every Island Games in the years to come. The ceremonials over, the Christine Wild Theatre School, dressed in costumes from around the world, sang ‘Teach the World To Sing’ and ‘Children of the World Unite.’ Before leaving the platform the Lieutenant Governor was presented with a superb crystal glass by Mr Noel Cringle M.H.K. to mark this very special occasion. His Excellency and Lady Cecil then went for walkabouts, chatting informally with members of all the teams.
The proceedings concluded with the singing of the Manx National Anthem ‘0 Land of Our Birth’ and this was followed by three rousing cheers for His Excellency. And so the Games were given the perfect start, blessed with good weather and an impressive opening which was enjoyed by all. The scene was now set for the Games to commence.
That Friday evening the competitions started in earnest with the badminton team event, Ladies’ volleyball, and the 50km cycling team time trial at Castletown.
SATURDAY 20th JULY
While a full sports programme was taking place in different parts of the island, Team Managers were invited to a civic reception at the Town Hall, and a welcome by his Worship the Major of Douglas, Councillor A. Duggan, J.P. After refreshments there was the customary signing of the visitors’ book, and photo session. That evening there was a grand reception for Team Managers and officials at Castle Rushen in Castletown, the ancient capital of Mann. This magnificent castle dates back to Norse times, and stands like a sentinel over the town, with its huge limestone structure which is visible for miles around.
Coaches were laid on to transport everyone from Douglas to Castletown in the south of the Island, and on arrival at the Castle members were met and welcomed by Mr Tony Brown, the member of the House of Keys for Castletown, who was responsible for organising this function along with members of the Social Committee. Mr Brown then gave a conducted tour of the castle, and this was followed by a fascinating demonstration of handling birds of prey in the castle grounds, then it was the turn of the children from the local primary school, dressed in traditional costume, to give an entertaining display of Manx country dancing in this magnificent historical setting.
To background music by the Manx Youth Band members were invited to indulge in good food and wine, served in the magnificent banqueting hail. The catering firm was aptly named “Capable Cooks”, and from the records some 24 boxes of red and white wine were consumed, and an unspecified number of soft drinks, and a good time was had by all, thanks to the sponsors, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
One feature of the evening, which is now very much a tradition at each Games, was the exchanging of gifts between Team Managers, such as ties, heraldic shields, lapel badges, books and literature, etc., and sometimes more exotic gifts!.
TUESDAY 23rd JULY
The first business meeting for Team Managers was held at the Palace Hotel, Douglas (now the Hilton Hotel). It was very clear the First Island Games had been a great success, and discussions took place mainly on the issue of the way forward, and how best to set up a permanent structure to ensure the continuation of the Games in the future.
Mr Geoffrey Corlett (Isle of Man) then formally proposed “That this meeting agrees to the setting up of an Island Games Association”. This was seconded by John Nicholson (Shetland) and carried unanimously, with acclamation.
The following were elected to the Executive Committee for the period 1985-87:
- Chairman, Noel Cringle M.H.K. (Isle of Man);
- Vice-Chairman, Owen Le Vallee (Guernsey);
- General Secretary/Hon. Treasurer, Geoffrey Corlett (Isle of Man);
- Alan Cross (Jersey);
- Dick Ekstrom (Aland);
- John Kjaer (Faroes).
It was agreed that the Games be held every two years. The meeting welcomed Mr Owen le Vallee’s proposal that the 1987 Games be held in Guernsey, subject to getting the financial support from his government, and this offer was much appreciated, as it guaranteed continuity, which was important at this time.
Finally, John Nicholson (Shetland) proposed that the Headquarters for the Association should remain in the Isle of Man, and this was seconded by Vernon Shimmin (Isle of Wight), and was carried unanimously.
The final event of the Games was the men’s half marathon, the start of which was on the Douglas promenade opposite the Palace Hotel. At 6.3Opm the runners came under starters orders, and away they went in what proved to be a thrilling climax in an exciting race. The novel idea was for the runners to finish in the Palace Ballroom which was packed to the doors. As the leaders entered the hall running the gauntlet of enthusiastic spectators, they arrived to the background music of “Chariots of Fire”. The first man home was Mikael Norblom from Aland in a time of 1 hour 9 minutes and 32 seconds, closely followed by two Manxmen, Steve Kelly and Andrew Horne, with all finishers getting a great reception..
The medal presentations followed for the half marathon, and the automatic ball trap team event which was completed earlier in the day. The medal ceremony was the same for all events at the different venues, namely the sounding of the victory fanfare, the children in national costume parading to the rostrum with the gold, silver and bronze medals, and the announcement and parade of the winners. After the medal presentations came the playing of the winner’s National Anthem, and then the triumphant march off. . . a very proud moment for the recipients.
The Games Committee decided very wisely that this ceremony should last no longer than 15 minutes! In an emotional closing speech, Chairman Mr Noel Cringle M.H.K. thanked all the islands for competing in such a friendly and sportsmanlike way. He then announced the decision taken at the business meeting for Team Managers earlier that day, that it was unanimously agreed to set up an Island Games Association, and that the next Games would be held in two years time in Guernsey. The cheers and applause nearly brought the house down!
Mr Owen Le Vallee (Guernsey) responded by warmly thanking the host Island and congratulated them on the superb organisation, and said he would look forward to welcoming everyone to Guernsey in 1987. The Year of Sport Trophy was won by the Isle of Man with 25 gold, 20 silver and 25 bronze medals, and Team Manager Mr John Mead received the trophy. A special crystal vase made by craftsmen of St John’s Crystal, and donated by them, was presented to Bobby Essex, Team Manager of St. Helena, by Director Cohn Defoix, not only for their sportsmanship throughout the Games, but i&recognition of the fact that they had made a tremendous effort in traveling some 5,000 miles to participate. This was a very popular choice, and one that the team could savour on the two-week return sea journey home!
The Games flag was then ceremoniously lowered, and handed over for safe keeping, to be raised again at the Opening Ceremony of the Second Games in Guernsey.
It was then party and carnival time for all to enjoy, with singing, dancing and some impromptu entertainment from happy islanders. But all good things have to come to an end, and the evening ended with the Lido’s brilliant lasers flashing this message “. . . A Farewell to Friends . . . See You in Guernsey 1987”. Shakespeare would have probably added that “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, but there was also a buzz of intense excitement at the prospect of all meeting together again in two years time.
Letters of appreciation were sent in to the local newspapers following the Games, and two have been included here from two of the Team Managers, merely to recapture the sentiments, atmosphere and impressions of the First Island Games, held in the Isle of Mann, over ten years ago.
Following the success of the Games and the decision to set up the Island Games Association, the Year of Sport Executive agreed on the following:
(1) To immediately donate the sum of one thousand pounds sterling to the new Association, in order to open
a bank account.
(2) To provide an office in Douglas for the I.G.A. HQ, rent free, and on the closing down of the Year of Sport office (Easter 1986) the office equipment and furniture would be transferred to the Games office for the use of the I.G.A. Hon Secretary.
These arrangements were approved by Government, and were extremely helpful at that time, enabling this new Association to get quickly established.
TREE PLANTING CEREMONY - TURNS BACK THE CLOCK
During the Fourth Island Games in Aland (1991), the I.G.A. Executive Committee supported a proposal put forward by Bo Frykenstam (Gotland) to present a tree to the people of Aland to mark this special occasion. The ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister, Sune Eriksson, the Games organising committee and the LG.A. Executive. It was also agreed that a similar gesture should be made to the previous host islands.
Consequently, a tree planting ceremony took place in the Isle of Man on 15th September, 1991, to coincide with the opening of Phase 1 of the National Sports Centre, which was built on the former King George V playing fields in Douglas. Attending the ceremony were representatives of the 1985 organising committee including Mr Noel Cringle, former Chairman, and Geoffrey Corlett, Organising Director for the 1985 Games.
It was decided that the l0ft blue cedar would be planted on the perimeter of the athletics track at the National Sports Centre. Mr Corlett unveiled the plaque which was covered with a Manx flag, and then Noel Cringle started spreading the soil around the base of the tree and each member present did likewise, symbolising the team effort and excellent co operation of all concerned; which had prevailed during the First Games.
Courtesy of Geoff Corlett
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