Are you one of the millions of people who were disappointed in your attempt to get Olympic tickets for next year? Or are you one of the fortunate few who actually was awarded tickets, but you do not feel able to wait a whole year until the Olympics? Either way - help is at hand. For you can experience all the thrills, spills and chills of the Olympic or Commonwealth Games at an often overlooked international sporting event which this year is taking place in British waters. For this year, between the 25th June and the 1st July, the Isle of Wight is hosting the Island Games.
What is the Island Games?
The Island Games is a biannual international sporting event, but on a smaller, more intimate scale, with entrants representing islands rather than nations. First held on the Isle of Man in 1985, teams from islands from all around the world: Canada, the Caribbean, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Isle of Wight has taken part in the Island Games since the beginning, and first hosted the games in 1993. The games involve teams competing in a range of at least a dozen different sports, chosen by the host island. Around 4,000 athletes from all around the world are expected to attend, and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2012 are strongly involved in the Island Games in order to gain invaluable experience in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games.
This Year's Sports
- Shooting - both Clay Pigeon and Target
- Table Tennis
These events take place at sports clubs, leisure centres2 and High Schools all around the Island, and the games are of real benefit to the community. When the Isle of Wight last held the games in 1993, my school, Sandown High School, had a brand-new state-of-the-art athletics track3 laid in the school sports field in preparation for the games, replacing the old grass painted with lines affair. The next school sports day, held on the new track, I won the 200m sprint4.
This year, a red squirrel is the Games' mascot. The Isle of Wight is proud to be one of the few places in Britain where the rare and endangered native red squirrel still thrives, and the squirrel is often used to symbolise the Island. Like the Olympic Games, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to the top three.
This year 25 islands from all around the world will be taking part:
- Åland Islands – These are a Swedish-speaking region of Finland. Åland consists of more than 6,700 islands and skerries5.
- Alderney – This is 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 a half miles 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 – These Danish islands are situated in the middle of the North Atlantic between Iceland, Norway and Scotland.
- Frøya – This Norwegian island is situated off the coast of Central Norway near the island of Hitra. Frøya further west than Hitra, facing the North Atlantic.
- Gotland – This Swedish island is the largest island in the Baltic Sea, and Sweden's largest island. It is situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea, 50 miles from the Swedish mainland, and 80 miles from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
- 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 and is located 80 miles south of England. 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.
- 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 the best Island in the world, or that's what I think, any way.
- Jersey – The largest Channel Island. It has given its name to a breed of cow, a jumper and an American state.
- Menorca – This Spanish is 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 – This Canadian island is 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 – 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 archipelago6 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.
Some of the competing islands are no longer entirely independent but attached to their mainlands either 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.
So, if you wish to see an international sporting event this year, why not support and attend this year's Island Games?
I have been to three of the islands listed above - can you guess which ones?