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Logo for NatWest Island Games XVII Gotland 2017

NatWest Island Games XVII Gotland 2017

24th June - 30th June 2017

It had been 18 years since the Swedish island of Gotland last hosted the NatWest Island Games, but on the 24th of June 2017 the opening ceremony of the 17th games commenced. 

It was a different Games from 1999 in many aspects, but the venue for the opening ceremony was the same, Strandgärdet in Visby, just outside the town wall. It was attended by over 5000 people, including the 2333 accredited competitors from the 23 participating member islands. Unfortunately Rhodes had to withdraw their entered competitors just a few weeks before the games, but they were represented at the opening ceremony by their island secretary.

The governor of Gotland, Cecilia Schelin Seidegård, declared the games open and after that the sights were set on six days of competitions. The gold medal winners would literally take home a piece of Gotland since we decided to put a gotlandic fossil stone on the gold medals. 544 gold medals were produced and handed out to the top finishers.

We focused a lot on making sure that the NatWest Island Games could be experienced outside of Gotland as well. With the benefit of modern technology and social media we had live broadcasts from the games. 52 events were brought to the world via Facebook. The opening ceremony was viewed by more than 26,000 people. Other popular webcasts were gymnastics (10,000 viewers) and the men’s high jump final (5,500 views).

One of the challenges for a host island is to fully involve the local communities in the games, therefore we decided at an early stage to follow Jerseys lead and have Games Makers (volunteers). This proved to be a huge success. We had 400 volunteers helping out with various tasks including attaches, transportation, arrivals and departures. On top of that we had approximately 1000 sport specific volunteers on duty at the sports venues to host the 14 different sports.

The biggest teams came from the host island (251), Jersey (228) and Guernsey (208). But at the end of the week none of those islands were on top of the medal table. The Isle of Man was in first place, claiming 39 gold medals, 36 silver medals and 26 bronze medals and in second place came the Faroe Islands with 30 gold medals, 27 silver medals and 30 bronze medals. 

Even though the weather was great for the opening ceremony, the Swedish summer didn't give us it’s best during the Games week, but to the credit to all the competitors, supporters and everyone else involved, there were no complaints. I guess that as islanders we are used to the wind and cold, at least some of us. Not many sports were to be affected by the elements, triathlon had to shorten the swimming part of the event due to large waves and heavy winds, tennis had to move a couple of the matches on the last day indoors to be certain to complete the competition. And the weather obviously changed the conditions of a lot of sports but they all proceeded as planned.

To make sure that the people of Gotland got to experience the atmosphere of the games and to create a natural meeting place we turned the main square of the old part of Visby into what we called Games Street. We had souvenir vendors, food and beverages, activities for children and a stage where we had music performances and medal presentations every night. The opening hours were 16.00-22.00. Despite the weather, a lot of people found their way to Games Street during the week, and it became the meeting place we had hoped for.

The Games concluded with a closing ceremony and a closing party on the 30th of June. The ceremony was held outside the Wisby Strand conference centre and the closing party at the nearby Kallbadhuset.

We set out to create memories for life for all the people coming to Gotland to the Games 2017. Every visitor needs to decide for themselves if we succeeded  but through our core values; closeness, climate friendly and fair play we hope to have achieved something to be remembered for a long time.

Per Wallstedt
Games Director