Interviews with three islands

Bermuda, Shetland and Åland says:
– Gotland will arrange a great NatWest Island Games 2017. There is no doubt about that.
After four intense days at next year’s organizers everything appears to be in order.

Just over a year left but busy days for the hosts on Gotland. Easy to relate to for those who ever hosted NatWest Island Games.
Wednesday, June 29 63 visitors from the participating islands arrived for the pre-visit. Four packed days later they, went back home after checking out the accommodation, doing workshops, visited some of the venues, had meetings with sports coordinators, had a few more meetings and went on a guided tour in Visby.
They have asked questions – got their answers, been to dinner with the governor. But maybe most important, socialized and tied even stronger ties between their islands.

We sat down with three secretaries in their NatWest Island Games Association. Juanita Bee, Bermuda, Susanne Guildford, Åland and Bob Kerr, Shetland.
They all believe in great games 2017.
– Gotland has proven to be very organized. They had the games in 1999 and have participated regularly so they know what it is all about. It’s very satisfying to see how well planned it all seems to be, even the small details, says Bob Kerr.

Do you have any concerns about the games?
– I have full confidence in the Gotland organization, says Juanita Bee and get nodding support from Susanne and Bob. What we have seen here is very impressive.

What expectations do you have?
– Lots of fun, a great atmosphere like the one in 1999. The weather was fantastic and the opening ceremony a big success, says Susanne Guildford.
– I think every game learn from the previous. NatWest Island Games is an excellent opportunity to bring Islanders and sports people together. It is a powerful week socially, that we all learn a lot from. The games are getting better and better every time, says Bob Kerr.

Is social interaction more important than the results at the venues?
– We do not win very many medals… but a few. For us, meeting other people active in different sports around the world is important. And to watch other athletes´ competing is very rewarding, you learn a lot from it, says Juanita Bee.

In the NatWest Island Games the young athletes in Bermuda get a goal to aim for, she says. The opportunities to compete with the flag of Bermuda on the jersey are rare.
For many of the smaller islands, or those who are far away from the mainland, the games may be the only way to get a feel of the international arena.
– In these games we get a chance to compete on equal terms, which is important, says Bob Kerr.

What is important not to go wrong in the games of 2017?
– I’m not concerned that Gotland will not be able to arrange the games successfully. They´ve got it all here, hotels, infrastructure, no need to build venues, says Susanne Guildford.

What are you most looking forward to?
– That the athletes have fun, says Susanne. If they bring any medals home, that´s great, but having a good time on Gotland, meeting people and having great experiences is the most important.

How much attention do NatWest Island Games get back home?
– In Scotland it is the biggest sporting event for us who live on the islands of Orkney, The Western Islands and Shetland. Yes, there are athletes who represent Scotland, but for the majority of our athletes NatWest Island Games is their main event, says Bob Kerr.

Juanita Bee, Bermuda:
– We entered in 2003 and the commitment has grown over the years. We got a big boost when we hosted the games in 2013, then the islanders saw what the games really represent. Once people understood how big this is the public, athletes, sponsors and the business world, got very much more interested. Now they love the games.
– We are like Shetland pretty much, this is the only time we can compete under our own flag. It’s great, especially for the young athletes, says Susanne.

Bermuda will not bring any journalists to Gotland, “too expensive,” says Juanita Bee. Åland will have two papers and a radio station on site, from Shetland, two print journalists and one photographer.
The NatWest Island Games bring people closer, no doubt about that. There are more than one example of athletes who met – and became husband and wife.
Common values create a good ground for meetings – no matter if you have to go to Bermuda, Shetland, Åland. Or Gotland.