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Guernsey Set to Host 2023 NatWest International Island Games and Create A Lasting Sports Legacy

by Karen Rollins May 1, 2023

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NatWest International Island Games

Up to 2,800 athletes from 24 islands around the world will be arriving in Guernsey for the 19th edition of the NatWest International Island Games, which takes place from 8-14 July 2023.

Competitors from English, Welsh, and Scottish islands as well as islands in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the North and South Atlantic, and the Caribbean, will battle for up to 1,700 medals in 14 sports at various venues around Guernsey.

Guernsey is a founding member of the Island Games. It is hosting the event for a third time which is something no other island has done. It previously held the prestigious sporting spectacle in 1987 and 2003. 

Games Director for Guernsey 2023, Julia Bowditch, has the mammoth task of managing the staging of the major event along with a dedicated Organising Committee who are all volunteers.

She told Sure that the Guernsey team are “really excited” to be the first three-time host for the event, although she believes that honour comes with a heightened level of anticipation and responsibility, especially since the Games were postponed in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Julia adds: “Obviously we were upset and disappointed at not being able to host the Games in 2021 as planned, but it was the right decision in the end. 

“So now there’s a bit of added pressure and we really want to make sure that we deliver on expectations, both for the local audience and athletes, who have been looking forward to this since 2021. The fact that we’ve waited so long means we’re even more determined to put on a good show.”

Guernsey Island Games 2023
Photo credit: Guernsey 2023 Facebook Page

Julia’s role involves overseeing every aspect of planning for the Games. She manages everything from coordinating the sports and programmes, to sorting out accommodation, traffic management and handling transportation such as a dedicated bus network for the Games attendees and their support teams along with officials. 

Julia’s main aim is to make sure everything runs without a hitch and to a consistently high standard, but she is quick to acknowledge that the overall success of the Games heavily depends on 1,000 volunteers who will look after the visiting athletes as well as spectators. 

“It’s quite a big Games in terms of numbers and the whole thing is pretty much run by volunteers,” Julia states. “The volunteers are essential and on average during the Games they will put in around five shifts of between 4-8 hours each. Even the director of volunteers is a volunteer!”

Another key aspect in terms of the positive impact of the Games will be the public’s participation in Guernsey. Julia describes being able to host the event as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity which she hopes will encourage everyone to come out and support it. 

“Everywhere you go that week there will be someone from a visiting team or their support staff, so we hope the public will want to get involved,” she says. 

“It’s also the largest sporting event that Guernsey has ever held, and people will get to see some great athletes perform. It’s been 20 years since we last held the Games and we’re lucky to be hosting it for the third time because with the growing number of islands it’ll probably be over 20 years before we hold it again.” 

Julia adds: “There will also be other cultural activities taking place, so it is also really a celebration of island life.”

Guernsey 2023 Games logo

In terms of the preparation needed to host 14 sporting events such as archery, athletics, cycling, golf, indoor bowls, sailing, swimming and tennis, Julia says Guernsey has an advantage because all those sports are already played on the island.

She explains: “Guernsey is lucky because it has a lot of bespoke venues, like the Guernsey Indoor Bowls Centre for example, so we don’t have to build temporary venues because most of them are already here and ready to go. Beau Sejour is hosting the swimming, basketball, and air pistol and air rifle events so that will act as a hub. 

“Also, being based on an island has advantages for events like the triathlon road race, which is along a beautiful route, and the golf course which is on the coast.”

When asked what she’s most looking forward to once the Island Games get going, Julia simply says that she just wants “everything to work as planned.”

“The sporting organisations are well established so I’m confident that all the sports know what they’re doing,” Julia adds. “I just want it to all go smoothly.”

And in terms of a long-term legacy for Guernsey, Julia hopes the NatWest International Island Games will boost tourism and general participation in sport. 

“We have thousands of people coming, and we really hope they’ll want to come back again and see more of the island,” she states. 

“We’re also looking at developing an education programme in the schools which will get them to partner with member islands. So, I just hope it really leaves a legacy and inspires people to get active, because watching live sport is aspirational and motivational.”

For more information on the NatWest International Island Games 2023 – visit the Guernsey 2023 website.