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Logo for NatWest Island Games XI - Shetland 2005

NatWest Island Games XI - Shetland 2005

9th – 15th July 2005

Shetland becomes the smallest island to stage the NatWest Island Games.

Even before the first gold medal had been won in the 11th NatWest Island Games Shetland had already created its own little piece of history by becoming the smallest island group (population: 23,000) to host the gathering.

Around 2,400 competitors, officials and supporters arrived by sea and air to be looked after by upwards of 800 volunteers. The spirit of the Games was exemplified by the 17-strong contingent from the South Atlantic island of St. Helena who left home three weeks before the event began, and by the Falkland Islands squad who faced an 8,000 mile journey, not to mention a travel bill of £2,500 each.

Supporters had their own stories to tell about their determination to be there – a flotilla of 47 motor cruisers made the journey from the Faroes and one intrepid crew even attempted to row the 228 miles to Shetland.

The competing islands ranged from those who had taken part in every Games since the inaugural event in the Isle of Man in 1985, to the Western Isles who were experiencing their first, having been elected to the fraternity during Guernsey 2003. Fifteen islands were represented at the first Games; this time there were 24, contesting 15 separate sports.

For the people of Shetland it meant the culmination of three years planning, preparation, and hard work and a unique opportunity for its sports men and women to project themselves on a world stage. However, a small working party had been involved even earlier, having been set up at the end of 1999 to take the project forward.

One of the biggest problems facing the organisers was the question of accommodation, as Games Director Gary Jakeman explained: ‘This was the biggest challenge we had. With such limited hotel rooms and bed and breakfast facilities available we had to be creative in the way in which we put people up.’ Creative they certainly were, bringing in two cruise liners to act as floating hotels!

So, after a gestation period of almost six years the NatWest Island Games of 2005 was over in seven days. What legacy did it leave for Shetland? Bob Kerr, Sports Development Officer with Shetland Islands Council, was General Manager of the home team. He says: ‘The thing I will remember most was the unity of the Shetland community.

‘For one week, and just one week, almost all other recurring news topics and local frustrations were put to one side and thousands of local folk got behind the Games. Everyone was so upbeat and so many people either supported the local team or helped with the running of the event. After all the build-up, plenty of folk were curious to see what it was all about.’

They soon found out what it was all about as tracksuits and flags provided a colourful spectacle at the Clickimin Leisure Complex where the opening ceremony was held.
At the front of the parade of competing teams were the 2003 hosts Guernsey with the 241 member team from Shetland bringing up the rear led by flag bearer Ian Williamson. Official welcomes were extended by Sandra Jamieson, chair of the Shetland Island Games Association; John Scott, chairman of the organising committee; Bo Frykenstam, retiring chairman of the International Island Games Association, and Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell. Mr. McConnell said it was a proud moment for Shetland but also meant a lot to Scotland, showing off the islands and the country to an international audience and leaving a lasting legacy.

With the rain pouring down and plastic mackintoshes the order of the day, Mrs Jamieson raised an ironic cheer when she welcomed the visitors to ‘sunny’ Shetland. Although the weather meant some of the planned entertainment having to be postponed until later in the week, the rain failed to put a damper on the occasion and the opening ceremony continued with the traditional mingling of the water which surrounds the different islands. The large water feature which was the main focus of the opening ceremony had been modelled on the shape of Shetland.
Mr. McConnell officially declared the Games open and the Island Games flag was raised by Shetland golfer Heather Hogg and pistol shooter Kevin Gray while the competitors’ oath was spoken by archer Sarah Leith and bowler Robert Leask.

The honour of being the first gold medal winners of the games went to the Isle of Man’s clay shooting team of Barry Martin and David Walton but the hosts soon had cause for celebration themselves when 16 year old Emma Gray struck gold in the women’s javelin. Emma’s distance of 42.42 metres was a personal best and a new Shetland record. It was to be the first of ten gold medals for the Shetlands and placed them seventh in the overall medals table.

Some familiar names were among the medals as the track and field programme got underway. The opening day’s action saw the reigning champion in the men’s 3,000 metres steeplechase – Lee Garland from Guernsey – lead from start to finish to record a time of 9 minutes 24 seconds. Equally impressive was the Isle of Man’s Martin Aram who cleared 2.10 metres to win the men’s high jump, just short of his own games record of 2.13 metres which was set in Guernsey.

Another athlete to retain her title was Shetland’s Claire Wilson in the women’s 1,500 metres. One defending champion who had to settle for silver this time round was Kim Godtfredsen from Greenland. He led the men’s 10,000 metres for the first 15 laps but was passed in the home stretch by Gibraltar’s Michael Sanchez who won in a time of 30 minutes 59.87 seconds.

Athletics also provided one of the week’s more unusual stories when 18 year old identical twins Carlos and Carl Morgan from the Cayman Islands took gold and silver medals in the men’s 200 metres and followed this up with silver and bronze in the 100, just being pipped by Guernsey’s Dale Garland. However, the Morgans’ Cayman colleague, Jenny Gaio, completed the sprint double in the women’s events.

Swimming was one of the sports which saw standards improve considerably during the intervening two years, since the Guernsey Games. No fewer than 18 new records were established at the pool, 16 of them in the men’s events. The roll of honour included Jersey’s Simon Le Couilliard who set Games best performances in three individual and three relays while team-mate Alexis Militis was involved in record-breaking performances in two individual disciplines and three relays. Not to be outdone, Thomas Hollingsworth was responsible for four new records while his Guernsey colleague Jonathon Le Noury weighed in with two more.

Another star of the Games was cyclist Andrew Roche who returned home to the Isle of Man with six gold medals in his luggage. There were individual golds in the time trial, mountain bike and mountain bike criterium together with team golds in the time trial, road race and mountain bike cross-country. Bermuda’s Lynn Patchett was dominant in the women’s events taking first place in the individual time trial and town centre criterium with gold in the team time trial.

Elsewhere, the volleyball events saw two exciting finals with Saaremaa defeating Bermuda 3-2 to take the men’s title but having to settle for silver in the women’s contest, losing by the same score to the Faroe Islands. The Faroes also provided the winner of the table tennis men’s singles, with Evelina Carlsson from Gotland taking the honours in the ladies’ event. Squash was making its first appearance in the Games and the Channel Islands proved to be the experts with Ronnie Jubb (Jersey) wining gold in the ladies’ singles and Chris Simpson from Guernsey wrapping up the men’s event.

One of the hottest favourites to retain their crown was Guernsey in the men’s football competition. In previous Games they had virtually made the title their own but during the week a surprise packet emerged in the shape of the hosts who defeated the 2003 runners up, Isle of Man, 1-0 in the semi-final to set up a showdown with the defending champions who had beaten Western Isles in their semi-final. A crowd estimated at around 6,000 watched Shetland triumph 2-0 to bring down the curtain on the 2005 NatWest Island Games.

Guernsey had the consolation of heading the final medals table with 40 gold, 30 silver and 29 bronze. Isle of Man took second spot with 34 gold 35 silver and 23 bronze while Jersey were close behind with a tally of 33-28-32.
As well as being the smallest to stage the Games, Shetland was also the first Scottish island to do so. Shetland 2005 also witnessed a first in regard to the technological side of the NatWest Island Games; live pictures were available via the internet following the involvement of the Scottish Media Group, the host broadcasting service.

The annual meeting of the International Island Games Association, held during Games week, took some important decisions in relation to its future development. The Finnish island of Aland was handed the honour of staging the 2009 gathering, having previously hosted the event in 1991, while Menorca in Spain was accepted as the 25th and – under the present constitution – final, member of the Island Games community.

A progress report was given in relation to Rhodes 2007 when it was indicated the event would take place between June 30th and July 7th when 14 sports would be on offer. One of these is to be judo which thus makes a comeback, having last featured at Gibraltar in 1995. Association chairman Bo Frykenstam retired from office and was elected a life member, the new chairman being the previous vice-chairman, Brian Partington from the Isle of Man. Jorgen Pettersson (Aland) takes over the vice-chairman’s role.

So what memories will be taken away from Shetland 2005. The last word goes to Bob Kerr: ‘There has been nothing but praise for the whole event. Several people have since commented to me that before the Games they were either not into sport, were at best indifferent, or, at worst, totally against the whole proposal.

‘They were, however, converted by the whole Games experience – new and welcome converts to the emotional world of sport.’

Colin Brown