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Logo for NatWest Island Games X - Guernsey 2003

NatWest Island Games X - Guernsey 2003

28th June - 4th July 2003


The 2003 NatWest Island Games in Guernsey was different in many ways. The organisers had plumped for a less than traditional opening ceremony while the final medals table did not have the usual familiar ring to it.

The organising committee had been determined to depart from the accepted format whereby the opening ceremony is based around a stadium or athletics track. They certainly succeeded in their objective with an imaginative pageant, which owed much to Guernsey’s maritime heritage.

Thousands of spectators packed the seafront at St.Peter Port, the Island’s capital, on June 28th to watch around 2,500 competitors and officials parade from North Beach to the Albert Pier. The 23 nations included a new recruit in Bermuda but although the Island in the North Atlantic was taking part for the first time it was to make its presence felt by finishing fourth in the medals table with a tally of 15 gold medals.

After the march past – led by the official Games mascot, Daniel the Donkey - welcomes were extended by, among others, John Hunt, chairman of the Guernsey Island Games Association, and the Bailiff, Sir de Vic Carey. Thanking the States, the Bailiff and the people of Guernsey for making the Games a reality the chairman of the International Island Games Association, Bo Frykenstam, said the event had begun as a dream 20 years previously but had captured the imagination of Islanders around the world.

In keeping with the theme of making the opening ceremony different, the water carriers from the various islands were transported by boat to the Victoria Marina for the traditional mingling of the water. It was mixed in a fountain and a jet of water shot into the sky to signal it had been done.

The Games Association flag was raised to the accompaniment of the Guernsey national anthem, Sarnia Cherie – Sarnia being the old name for the Island. The gathering was then officially blessed by the Dean, the Very Reverend Canon Marc Trickey, and the Games were underway, well almost . . . The organisers had one more surprise in store when a large inflatable Daniel the Donkey was lowered on a wire from the top of the Woolworths building and remained suspended in mid-air over the water fountain.

Right from the early stages of planning Guernsey had determined it would move away from the standard opening ceremony and as big occasions and events in the Island have always been held around the quayside this was the obvious alternative. Games Director Roy Martel has no doubts the format was highly successful.

He said: “The atmosphere when the competitors threaded their way through crowds, within touching distance, massing on the pavements either side of the road and along the harbour side was absolutely electric. It raised the spirits and enthusiasm of everybody who was there, both spectators and competitors, and gave the Games the rocket lift-off we had hoped for.”

And so, on with the show! But the show didn’t have the best of starts weather-wise when a torrential downpour forced outdoor spectators at the athletics events to run for cover in the Garenne Stand. However, in spite off the conditions, the opening evening of the track and field programme provided some of the event’s most memorable moments.

Greenland’s Kim Godtfredsen destroyed the field in the men’s 10,000 metres, lapping all the runners apart from those in the silver and bronze medal positions, to win by a minute and claim his ninth gold medal. Kim shared the first athletics honours of the Games with athletes such as the Isle of Man’s Martin Aram who set a new record in the men’s high jump and Eric Larsson from Gotland who won the men’s shot putt by over a metre. Siiske Laide got Saaremaa off to a golden start with victory in the women’s javelin.

There were two early triumphs for the host nation, Guernsey, through Lee Garland in the men’s 3,000 metres steeplechase and Ann Bowditch in the women’s cycling time trial, the latter event seeing one of the closest finishes of the week when Bowditch and the runner-up, Lynn Patchett from Bermuda, were separated by just a hundredth of a second. There was consolation for Bermuda when they won the women’s time trial to record their first gold medal on their Games debut and provide a foretaste of things to come. Later in the week Patchett was back in the saddle to take gold in the women’s road race while Bowditch finished with four golds, signing off with victory in the criterium.

No mention of the cycling would be complete without a reference to the men’s time trial winner, Andrew Roche from the Isle of Man, who finished over two minutes ahead of his nearest rival and led the Manx squad to victory in the team competition.

Cycling also showed that sport is not the sole prerogative of youth when Glyn Young from Shetland took part in the time trial at the age of 58 and finished ten minutes ahead of one of his much younger teammates. Age was not an issue either for Sark footballer Barrie Dewsbury. Barrie, a former professional with Huddersfield, came out of retirement to help the Island’s first-time entry into the football arena – a debut which saw them take on Gibraltar in their first match.

When the football tournament got to the sharp end it was Guernsey and the Isle of Man who contested the men’s final and a hat-trick from Matt Warren gave the host nation the gold medal with a 3-1 scoreline. Hopes of an all-Channel Islands final had been dashed when the Isle of Man defeated Jersey 2-1 in the semi-final. The women’s football final saw seven goals with the Faroe Islands scoring five of them to restrict Gotland to the silver medal.

Although many of the various sports contested throughout the week resulted in close matches, by general consent the competitors in the men’s table tennis events were largely playing for the silver medal position such was the class of Carl Prean from the Isle of Wight. Prean – three times English National Champion – won all his individual events, taking the singles’ title for the fifth time. He also helped the Isle of Wight to team gold with a 4-0 victory in the final against Jersey.

There was a fourth title for the Isle of Wight when 18 year old Lucy Pointer got the better of Guernsey’s Dawn Morgan in the ladies’ singles which turned out to be the best of the individual finals. However, there was to be no clean sweep of the medals for the Isle of Wight with Morgan returning to the table to partner Kay Chivers to victory in the ladies’ doubles final against Jersey’s Jenny Anderson and Kay Lefebvre.

One of the most popular sports in any Games is the swimming but with the spectator area packed to capacity at the start of the week it looked as if many people would have to be turned away. However, thanks to BBC Guernsey the finals were projected onto a giant screen in the theatre at Beau Sejour and the spectators – whether watching live or on the big screen – saw some record breaking performances.

The personal haul of Guernsey swimmer Gail Strobridge of six golds, five silvers and two bronze would have placed her ninth on the overall Islands’ medal table! Meanwhile her friend, Natalie Bree from Jersey, won the women’s 200 metres individual medley for the third time in a row, breaking the Games record in the process.

Other memories of a fantastic week come thick and fast - four gold medals for Guernsey’s Andy Torode and three for Peter Nordgren of Gotland in the pistol shooting, and three more for Guernsey’s Dale Garland on the athletics track. Who could forget the dead heat in the men’s 100 metres freestyle swimming final between David Roberts (Ynys Mon) and Roy Burch (Bermuda) or for that matter the epic men’s basketball final when Rhodes defeated the Cayman Islands 76-72 in overtime?

Other competitors will remember the Guernsey NatWest Island Games of 2003 for different reasons. Gibraltar’s Michael Sanchez learned that his mother had died then put up the performance of his life in a tribute to her by taking the bronze medal in the men’s half marathon.

While many competitors had reason to celebrate after their events one man celebrated just too early and it cost him a gold medal. Jersey cyclist Sam Firby seemed to have victory in his pocket in the sprint finish at the end of the criterium but his salute was a little premature and the Isle of Man’s Mark Cavendish nipped through to win by the width of a tyre. “I was an idiot,” admitted Firby afterwards. “If I hadn’t done a victory salute I would have won.”

Just like Cavendish, Guernsey came through strongly at the end of the week to claim 24 golds on the final day of competition and finish at the top of the medal table for the first time. The Isle of Man led the way at the end of the first day’s competition while Jersey were the midweek leaders. However, the hosts were not to be denied and finished with 55 golds. Jersey was next with 37 followed by the Isle of Man (29) and Bermuda (15) while Gotland and Cayman notched-up 11 golds each.

Without doubt, Guernsey rated as one of the best Games ever, being covered by over 250 media representatives from around the world. But the event doesn’t just happen and it may be interesting to quote some facts and figures to illustrate the amount of planning which goes into organising a successful games. A total of 5,000 accreditation passes had to be issued; around 80 bus drivers were needed to operate the transport system; 3,000 polo shirts and well over 1,000 waterproof jackets were provided for the volunteers; 50 PCs were required to operate the results service, while another item on the shopping list was 1,500 medals.

The man who had the job of pulling it all together, Games Director Roy Martel described it as one of the most exciting periods of his life. He said: “If I have one abiding memory of the whole Games it is the involvement of the school children.

“We twinned each school in Guernsey with an Island and they adopted that Island in the year before, and during, the Games. A number of islands took the time and trouble to visit the schools and attend assemblies or classes and in return the schools took their pupils on field trips to watch the sports in which their adopted islands were taking part.

“The sight of hundreds of children turning up to various sporting venues throughout the week developed a wonderful atmosphere and will provide a lasting memory of the Island Games for those school children who, we hope, will be the next generation of supporters of the Games.

“The Island Games is a family of friends engaged in competitive activities. Like all families there are disagreements but they are soon forgotten as the family moves from one celebration to another. For four years, which at the time seemed an eternity but on looking back wasn’t, I was part of that family of friends. It is an experience which I will never forget and of which I will always be proud.”

Colin Brown