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The Island Games

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A composite image of the island flags.

The Island Games is a biannual international sporting event, similar to the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. Unlike the larger, more famous sporting games, the entrants represent islands rather than nations. Over 2,000 athletes compete in teams from islands from all around the world, including Canada, the Caribbean, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The games involve teams competing in a range of at least a dozen different sports, chosen by the host island.

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2012 were strongly involved in the 2011 Island Games held on the Isle of Wight, in order to gain invaluable experience in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games1.


The Island Games was first held on the Isle of Man in 1985. Originally called the Inter-Island Games, the Games were created as the highlight of the Isle of Man's Year of Sport. It had been intended to bring together a number of small islands from different parts of the world in friendly competition. From the start the competition was open to islands across the world, not just parts of the British Isles. At the first Island Games, 15 islands took part.

The Inter-Island Games was such a success that it was decided to hold the now-renamed Island Games again in 1987, this time hosted in Guernsey. Since then the number of participating islands has increased, and 25 islands are members of the International Island Games Association that is in charge of organising the games.

The Hosts of the Island Games have been:

  • 1985 – Isle of Man
  • 1987 – Guernsey
  • 1989 – Faroe Islands
  • 1991 – Åland
  • 1993 – Isle of Wight
  • 1995 – Gibraltar
  • 1997 – Jersey
  • 1999 – Gotland
  • 2001 – Isle of Man
  • 2003 – Guernsey
  • 2005 – Shetland
  • 2007 – Rhodes
  • 2009 – Åland
  • 2011 – Isle of Wight

At the 2011 games it was announced that the next host would be Bermuda in 2013.

Sports Involved

As in the Olympic Games, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to the competitors who finish in the top three places.

The Islands

Islands2 from all around the world have taken part:

  • Åland Islands – a Swedish-speaking region of Finland, Åland consists of more than 6,700 islands and skerries3.

  • Alderney – the most northerly of the Channel Islands and, being 8 miles from the coast of France, is the closest Channel Island to both France and England. It is three miles long and one and half a mile wide.

  • Bermuda – one of the most geographically remote islands in the world, this British Overseas Territory is located in the Atlantic Ocean. Bermuda is famous for being a tourist destination, as well as for colourful shorts and the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

  • Cayman Islands – situated in the Western Caribbean, about 150 miles south of Cuba, the Cayman Islands consist of the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. These islands are a British Overseas Territory.

  • Falkland Islands – consisting of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands, the Falklands are located in the South Atlantic, approximately 480 miles north-east of Cape Horn, and 8,000 miles from Britain. These British islands were invaded by Argentina in 1982, leading to the Falklands War.

  • Faroe Islands – Danish islands, situated in the middle of the North Atlantic between Iceland, Norway and Scotland.

  • Frøya – a Norwegian island situated off the coast of Central Norway near the island of Hitra. Frøya is further west than Hitra, facing the North Atlantic.

  • Gotland – Sweden's largest island and the largest in the Baltic Sea. It is situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea, 50 miles from the Swedish mainland, and 80 miles from Latvia.

  • Gibraltar – although technically a peninsula bordering Spain and not an island, Gibraltar competes in the Island Games regardless. This British overseas territory is situated at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and is the southernmost point of Europe.

  • Greenland – the largest island in the world and an autonomous part of Denmark, Greenland is located in the northern Atlantic where the Arctic and Atlantic oceans meet. At over 836,000 square miles it is larger than all other islands competing for the Island Games put together, but sparsely populated.

  • Guernsey – the second largest of the Channel Islands, located 80 miles south of England. Famous footballer Matt Le Tissier came from Guernsey.

  • Hitra – the neighbouring island to Frøya, Hitra is situated off the coast of central Norway, closer to the Norwegian mainland than its neighbour.

  • Iceland – a country with a population of over 300,000 and one of the biggest islands to have ever competed in the Island Games.

  • Isle of Man – the Isle of Man is in the centre of both the Irish Sea and the British Isles. It is famous for its motorbike racing and tailless cats.

  • Isle of Wight – the Isle of Wight is located five miles off the south coast of England and separated from Hampshire by the Solent. It is the smallest county, but largest island in England. It is frequently known by its unofficial name, 'the Island'.

  • Jersey – the largest Channel Island. It has given its name to a breed of cow, a jumper and an American state.

  • Malta – an independent island in the Mediterranean.

  • Menorca – a Spanish island situated in the middle of the Western Mediterranean near Majorca, between the coasts of southern France and Algeria and between the Italy and Spain.

  • Orkney – the Orkney Islands are an archipelago of 70 islands, 20 of which are occupied, ten miles north of mainland Scotland.

  • Prince Edward Island – a Canadian island, the smallest political part of Canada and named after the father of Queen Victoria. It inspired the Anne Of Green Gables stories.

  • Rhodes – a Greek island situated in the eastern Mediterranean basin. This is the easternmost point of the Greek archipelago and was the site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World.

  • Sark – the smallest of the four major Channel Islands, only 2 miles square.

  • Saaremaa – meaning 'Island's Land', Saaremaa is the largest Estonian island, the second largest island in the Baltic Sea and lies in the Gulf of Riga.

  • Shetland Islands – situated fifty miles north-east of the Orkney Islands, Shetland is a cluster of over 100 islands between Scotland and Scandinavia, sixteen of which are inhabited. Shetland is famous for its miniature ponies.

  • St Helena – the British island of St. Helena lies in an isolated position in the South Atlantic, the nearest mainland, the west coast of Africa, is over 1,000 miles away. It is 10 miles by 5 miles.

  • Western Isles – also known as the Outer Hebrides, the Western Isles are an archipelago4 of islands off the west coast of mainland Scotland. Fifteen are inhabited, 50 are not.

  • Ynys Môn – the Isle of Anglesey, known in Welsh as Ynys Môn, is located on the north coast of Wales. Anglesey is famed for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch railway station.

As with the Olympics, athletes compete under their island's flag, except for the Isle of Wight, which competes in the games under the Flag of St George of England rather than its own flag5, and Rhodes, which participates under the Greek flag.

1The Isle of Wight has had a long history of hosting international sporting events, including the very first America's Cup and the Schneider Cup. The Island's greatest racing achievement is perhaps the construction of Thrust 2, the world's fastest car and Land Speed Record holder between 1983-1997, which was built on the Isle of Wight.2Some of the competing islands are no longer entirely independent but attached to their mainlands, by bridge or tunnel, either directly or via connections to neighbouring islands. These include Anglesey, Frøya, Hitra and Prince Edward Island. Despite this, they are still allowed to compete.3A skerry is an island too small to be inhabited.4An archipelago is a chain of islands.5The Isle of Wight flag is an Isle of Wight-shaped diamond on a light blue background above dark blue and white waves.

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