Setting the bar high for sport across Scotland’s Highlands and Islands will be focus of a special event in Orkney later this month, as work starts in earnest to prepare for the International Island Games to be staged in the county in 2023.
The two-day event based at the Pickaquoy Centre on 19 and 20 September will bring together sports governing bodies from the thirteen sports that will be represented at the 2023 Games.
Organised by sportscotland’s Highlands and Islands Regional Leadership Group, the event is supported by sportscotland, EventScotland, the 2023 Games organising committee, the Pickaquoy Centre, and representatives from Councils and Sports and Leisure Trusts from across the Highlands and Islands.
The event will both provide an opportunity to showcase Orkney’s assets for sport in the leadup to the 2023 Games, and set the scene for growing sport across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland along three key themes: Facility Development, People Development, and Athlete Development.
Gordon Deans is Chair of the Orkney 2023 Islands Games Company: “2023 will be the 20th International Island Games, an amazing success story which has for almost 40 years, provided a unique platform for member Islands across the globe to develop and enhance sport and tourism at all levels.
“Orkney have been at the centre of these games, positively contributing and competing since their inception in 1985.
“To have been selected to host these ‘Friendly Games’ in 2023 is not only a honour and privilege but an incredible opportunity for all of our communities across Orkney to come together and demonstrate to the world why our Islands are so special.
“The upcoming Regional Leadership event later this month is timely in terms of our planning and will bring together the key stakeholders and sports governing bodies, the 13 represented sports and Orkney2023 Organising Committee, all of whom have a part to play in delivering a successful games.
“The two day event will allow us here in Orkney to share our aspirations and vision for 2023, to highlight some of the additional challenges faced by more remote areas such as ours and to reinforce the importance of support from agencies and organisations such as those attending this event.
“We, the Organising Committee, very much look forward to forging valuable relationships with attendees, relationships which will inevitably strengthen as we progress towards our Island Games in just under four years.”
Stewart Harris, Chief Executive, sportscotland, said: “As the national agency for sport our role is to work with partners to make sure sport plays its part in a thriving Scotland; improving activity, helping the economy and strengthening communities and that’s why we are supportive of events like the Island Games.
“Competing on home soil is a very special experience. Performing in front of friends and family and being able to train and compete in a familiar environment can produce real performance gains for athletes.
“We work closely with Orkney Islands Council, the Pickaquoy Trust and Scottish governing bodies of sport to support the athletes, coaches, volunteers and clubs in Orkney to provide training environments to make sport more accessible and enable athletes to take their sport to the next level without leaving the islands. Orkney has already produced some talented athletes and I’m sure the Island Games will inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps.”
Robbie Clyde is Head of EventScotland, which was a key partner in developing Orkney’s bid to host the 2023 International Island Games. He said: "I'm delighted to be joining all our 2023 Island Games partners for this two day event. Events play a key role in our visitor economy and the Island Games in Orkney will be a wonderful showcase not only of the region but of Scotland's warm welcome and generous hospitality. I look forward to continuing the great work from the bid and delivering the best Island Games ever.”
Councillor Harvey Johnston is Convener of Orkney Islands Council – which has committed up to £1m towards supporting the 2023 Games. He will welcome delegates to the event: “Orkney’s participation in the Islands Games stretches right back to the inaugural Island Games in 1985.
“We may be a small community but we enjoy an extremely lively sports scene with both an impressive number of local people participating and supporting a diverse offering of sporting pursuits, and world-class facilities which have benefitted from ongoing investment over recent years.
“As a result we’ve seen some truly elite performances from local sportspeople at the Island Games over the years, some going on to represent their nation in other arenas such as the Commonwealth Games.
“This excellence is replicated across the Highlands and Islands.
“The 2023 Island Games provides an exciting opportunity to develop sport in Orkney up to and beyond the games. This event marks the first stage of partners committing to this vision. I have no doubt that working together we can reap dividends for our communities and for Scottish sport.”
A total of 13 sports - Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Clay Shooting, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Lawn Bowls, Road Cycling, Sailing, Squash, Swimming and Triathlon – will feature at the 2023 edition of the Games.
Held every two years, the Games brings together the 24 member islands of the International Island Games Association (IIGA) to compete in friendly competition. Orkney has been a member of the IIGA since its inception in 1985 and for a number of years has had aspirations to host the Games.