A Brief History of the Island Games

The first Island Games were held in July 1985 as part of 'The Year of Sport' in the Isle of Man. The intention was to bring together sportsmen and sportswomen from a number of small islands from different parts of the world to participate in a festival of sport. So from 14 islands - Aland, Anglesey, the Faroes, Froya, Gotland, Guernsey, Hitra, Iceland, Jersey, Malta, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, St. Helena and the Isle of Wight - athletes came to the Isle of Man to compete in 7 sports - badminton, athletics, cycling, shooting, swimming, soccer and volleyball. The ‘festival’ was such a success that at its conclusion the Island Games Association (IGA) was instituted and the decision was taken to hold Island Games every two years in different member islands.

From such beginnings the Games have steadily developed. More sports have been introduced and more islands have joined in.

Venue Number of sports Number of Islands
1985 Isle of Man 7 15
1987 Guernsey 9 18
1989 Faroe Islands 11 15
1991 Aland 13 17
1993 Isle of Wight 14* 19
1995 Gibraltar 14 18
1997 Jersey 14 19
1999 Gotland 14 22
2001 Isle of Man 15 22

*it was decided that in order to keep the Games to a manageable size the number of sports should be limited to 14, 6 designated core sports - athletics, badminton, cycling, shooting, swimming and volleyball - and 8 others to be determined by the organising committee for each Games.

The others have included - archery, golf, gymnastics, indoor bowls, judo, soccer, sailing, table tennis, tennis, basketball, 10 pin bowling (in Gotland this year!) and windsurfing.

A fascinating history of the first 10 years of the Island Games is fully set out in the well illustrated publication "The Island Games 1985-95" edited by Geoffrey Corlett, the organising director of the inaugural games and now designated 'Pater Ludorum' (Father of the Games). Copies of this excellent book which includes summaries of the results from the first 6 Games and interesting profiles of each of the member islands are now available.

Since 1995 the 7th Games have been held in Jersey and preparations are well in hand for this summer's 8th Games in Gotland. However the most significant development since 1995 has probably been the agreement made with NatWest Offshore to sponsor the Games of 1999 and 2001 thereby helping to put the Games on a much more secure financial footing.