The seventeenth NatWest Island Games was recently held in Gotland, Sweden and attracted about 3,000 participating athletes from 23 islands, including the Isle of Man.
Two intrepid athletes and colleagues, Alison Cowin (archery) and Kevin Loundes (athletics), joined the Manx team in Gotland and competed over one week. Along with many other athletes, they contributed to the Isle of Man’s success at the Island Games; the Isle of Man finished at the top of the medal table with 39 golds, 36 silver and 26 bronze. The haul was one the Island’s largest ever, only beaten by the 2001 total when the Isle of Man last hosted the event.
That’s the short story.
The long story is that the Island Games began in 1985 as the Inter-Island Games, part of the Isle of Man’s International Year of Sport, and were intended to be a one-off sporting celebration only. Under the motto Bringing Islands Together, the Games aimed to provide an opportunity for athletes from the different islands to compete internationally, and to forge links between different islands.
Islands with similar history, heritage and geography were invited and in the summer of 1985 the first ever Games were held. 700 participants from 15 islands took part in something that then became an amazing success. The experience was so good they all wanted to do it again, and the rest is, as they say, history. Since then, the NatWest Island Games has gone from 700 participants, 15 islands and 7 sports to 3,000 participants, 24 islands and 18 sports.