Guernsey has a very special place at the heart of the Island Games, according to the man in charge of the entire competition.
It is the first island to host the event three times and without its intervention after the first Games in the Isle of Man in 1985, the whole movement could have stalled.
“Those who took responsibility gathered after the Games and they realised this is too good not to continue,” said International Island Games Association President Jorgen Pettersson.
“But only one raised his hands to say that we are willing to take the responsibility for the next Games and that was Owen Le Vallee from Guernsey.
“So Guernsey took the step to keep the movement going. Anyone can host one thing once and it will be a success, but the tricky part of it is to continue not only once, but twice, three four and now 19 times. So Guernsey has a very, very special place, firstly, to make the wheels start rolling, and secondly, to be there in 2003 and 2023.”
Pictured: A bench dedicated to Owen Le Vallee, who was instrumental in Guernsey hosting the second Island Games, was unveiled at Footes Lane last week.
The opening ceremony for Guernsey 2023 takes place this evening from 5pm with the sporting action under way on Sunday morning.
The Guernsey Games comes at a crossroad in terms of sponsorship, with the title slot available again once they conclude.
The event has thrived, in part, because of the philosophy of those living on the islands.
Mr Pettersson warned against generalising, but said: “islanders are probably a little bit better at taking care of themselves, taking responsibility for themselves.
“They do that because they don't have any other options.
“But they also strive to become better, and that's where sport comes in, in a quite elegant way.
“I would say because of the willfulness, that will make you want to try harder, but you will lack the competition that you'll have in larger places. If you're living in London, it's more likely that you will find more people like yourself trying to become better at high jumping or shooting or whatever. In an island, you will lack that competition. And that's why the combination of willful islanders, and the opportunity to meet other islanders, is the perfect mix.”
Sport is developing, and the Games has played a vital role in that.
The huge upgrade in facilities at Footes Lane and Beau Sejour would not have happened without the 2003 Games acting as a catalyst.
Pictured: Beau Séjour will host basketball and swimming during Guernsey 2023.
In 2023 there will be further improvements in connectivity at all the venues, better tracking and livestreaming and scoring and timing systems.
“There are loads of things that we wouldn't have if it wasn't for the Games,” said Mr Pettersson .
“And sometimes I would like us all to remember the change that our Games have come with, we take this for granted because we see nothing else.”
Mr Pettersson’s philosophy about the development of the event is based around taking small steps forward.
He has sympathy for those sports, like volleyball, that come in and out of the programme depending on the wishes of the host island. But it was a difficult situation to address.
“We need to continue to encourage those islands who are potential host islands. In doing that, we also need to make sure that they have the financial strength for it. Because although each and every host island so far has gained from the sport, from the organisation, they gained in money, in cooperation, in the investments.
“Really there are many upsides of it, but it is a financial risk that someone needs to cover, and that someone is usually the state of the island that is concerned.”
The Games goes to Orkney in 2025, Ynes Mons in 2027 and the Isle of Man is the preferred bidder for 2029.
Interest has also been shown in hosting 2031 by the Faroe Islands.
The hunt is on for a new title sponsor to replace NatWest International.
“We're hoping to find someone that shares our values and sees the need and the upsides of including more international sport in the society, what it can mean for youngsters to learn, to grow and to continue to reach their own potential."
Pictured top: Jorgen Pettersson, picture by Blick/ Therese Andersson.
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