Let the games begin

Community, Guernsey

In July Guernsey will host its third Island Games. We spoke to Amanda Hibbs, the event Communications Director, about how preparations are going.

The global pandemic led to countless events being cancelled worldwide. One such casualty – a major one for Guernsey – was the NatWest International Island Games. The island had won the bid to host the biennial event in 2021 before Covid put pay to all plans. Now after a two-year delay, Guernsey is getting ready to welcome around 3,000 competitors, team managers and officials to its shores for what promises to be an exciting games in July this year. 

Amanda Hibbs, the event Communications Director, has been involved since the island set out its initial hosting bid for 2021.

‘One of the first things we did at the time was to produce a risk mitigation report, but we funnily enough, we didn’t include a global pandemic. So, we postponed the event to this year.

‘The island will be the first of the 24 members of the International Island Games Association (IIGA) to have hosted the event three times – having been host in 1987 (which was the second event in its history) and 2003. Teams from all member islands will compete in 14 different sports from 8th to 14th July.’

 

The event seems to have the community at its heart.

‘The games is bringing so many different aspects of the community together,’ said Amanda. ‘I have met lots of incredibly talented, lovely people volunteering to do so many things for us. It is amazing.’

There are around 1,100 volunteers now registered, most of whom will be involved only during the event itself doing everything from welcoming teams to acting as road marshals, driving mini buses or coordinating medal ceremonies. With more than 200 events being held at 25 different venues over seven days, the games wouldn’t happen without this number of willing volunteers.

Organisers have been keen to engage with other areas of the local community to broaden the event’s reach beyond only those already keen on sport. Local charities are getting involved: Cardiac Action Group is training volunteers in using a defibrillator and in CPR; Health Improvement Commission is working on a youth engagement programme promoting healthy lifestyles; St John Ambulance Guernsey is recruiting additional first aiders for the event – just a few examples of local community groups contributing to a successful games.

Even sports stars of tomorrow are playing a part. Primary schools will be offered resources, activities and a lesson plan on the cultures and histories of all member islands. The research and resource assets have been put together by students at Sixth Form Centre who have already run a pilot session with pupils at St Martin’s Primary School.

Technical partner Sure has carried out a survey of all locations to ensure that connectivity is fit for purpose. This will include fibre installation where needed. Sure is one of many corporate sponsors supporting the event and which have maintained their support despite its two-year postponement and the considerable rise in costs the world has seen since the pandemic – support which Amanda describes as ‘truly amazing’.

Aside from a global pandemic, the event organisation hasn’t been without its challenges – accommodation being one of the biggest. Amanda explains: ‘Accommodation is not a new problem and not unique to Guernsey. Past hosts have faced similar challenges and future ones will too. This is inevitable as the event continues to grow in popularity. But we have managed to find accommodation for everyone.’

The 2023 games will mark a couple of other firsts.

Gozo will be making its inaugural appearance at the games having been accepted as a member of the association last July. This will be the first ever time its athletes will compete in an international competition under their own flag as opposed being part of a Maltese delegation.

And there is even a new sporting event making its debut in Guernsey. Whilst the triathlon has always formed part of the games, and traditionally taken place on the first day, this year a triathlon relay will be held for the first time, giving the triathletes something to look forward to later in the week. 

Guernsey will be buzzing during that week in July. The event promises to be a huge success and will have touched most parts of the local community in some way.

It’s been four years in the making, but let the games begin.

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