Monday, July 11, 2005

Sporting, in the rain!

NatWest Island Games * By Alice Mascarenhas

Plan A,B, or C? Organisers of the XI NatWest Island Games had planned for every eventuality, everything down to the last detail.

But even allowing room for change at the last possible minute had not prepared them for the continuous downpour on Saturday evening which lasted for more than three hours and almost washed out the opening ceremony.

Yet in the true spirit of the games the delegations took up their positions, carried their flags, and held containers carrying the waters from the different islands.

The rain could not dampen the spirits, the hopes and dreams of this family of competitors from the 24 islands all wanting to achieve their very best in this eleventh festival of sport.

New to the games was the team from the Western Isles. Around 1,000 of the island’s 22,000 inhabitants turned out to watch the parade of athletes in the main athletics track Clickimin where it was wet, wet, wet, and standing in the pouring rain as the athletes, coaches and team managers paraded onto the water logged grounds.

The ponchos handed to all delegations on arrival certainly proved handy alongside umbrellas and hats of every shape and size.

But no one was spared – athletes, officials, organisers and guests stood or sat in the pouring rain, soaked through, as the organisers speeded up the proceedings, cancelled all the entertainment, cut the speeches and reduced the two hour-long ceremony to some 50 minutes.

Air Rifle shooter and gold medallist Heloise Manasco proudly carried the Gibraltar Flag leading the 80 strong delegation.

“I am proud and wet,” she smiled as she held on to the flag. “It is great to be here and it is for me an achievement to have been chosen to carry the flag,” she added.

Steps behind her was Badminton player Ivan De Haro, he carried the water container and given the task of joining all the other water bearers from the different islands.

The water ceremony saw them all pour out the water from their containers into a specially designed fountain - on this occasion in the shape of the 100 Shetland islands – as a symbol of uniting all the islands as one for the week of competition.

Ivan described the occasion as an honour both for him and for his sport.

“It could be my last island games so it is fantastic. This ceremony is the symbol of unity for all islands,” he said.

As the delegations paraded on there were loud cheers and applause, the strong link to the island’s Scandinavian history was evident as each member island name was carried by a Viking – even during the flag ceremony the Island Games flag was raised to the sounds of a rousing Viking song of olde.

“It is a shame but even though the weather is bad every single team has turned up very much in the spirit of the games,” commented Secretary Linda Alvarez.

“They have all worked so hard over the last two years and we feel a bit sorry for the local community but everyone is really happy to be here.”

The squash squad, participating in the games for the first time found it to be a great atmosphere and enjoyed participating in the event.

“It is a fantastic feeling!” commented Barry Brindle.

As the rain continued long after the ceremony was over there was still hope for today and the week ahead. The weather is expected to improve, and the organisers have promised to stage the show produced for the opening ceremony before the week is up.

As the athletes made it back to the cruise ships Athena and Van Gogh where the majority are staying, it was a hot shower, hot meal, and early night in anticipation of the competition which lies ahead.

Related Articles & Links:

08 July 2005 - Sport Minister sends warm wishes to Gibraltar's Island Games contingent

Nat West Island Games Shetland 2005

International Island Games Association - IGA

The Gibraltar Tennis & Basketball Tournament - Inter Island Games 2005

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