Isle of Man - 1985
Legacy – Isle of Man Host to the Inaugural Inter-Island Games
The concept of staging the Inter-Island Games was born of an Island, and especially its tourist industry, desperately seeking its identity in a changing world. Mass tourism had been the bedrock of the economy throughout the 20th century and markets had moved away from the Isle of Man with the advent of the affordable package holiday to the sun. The new opportunity was activity based tourism and so was born the concept of Year of Sport 1985. Delivery of that event fell to a committee of two men who went on to make a significant contribution to the Island Games movement, Noel Cringle (who later became President of the Island’s Parliament) and the late Geoff Corlett (Pater Ludorum.) They came up with the inspired concept of inviting other small communities to compete against each other and the rest is history
Q. What do you see as the biggest legacy of hosting the NatWest Island Games on your island in 1985?
A. At that stage of course they were not sponsored (NatWest came along over a decade later) and they were called the Inter-Island Games. They were certainly an outstanding success in terms of their original concept – bringing visitors to the Island. But much more importantly they captured the imagination of the local community. Sport was always important on the Island with strong levels of participation but success for our athletes on an international stage had been scant. Suddenly we had an event where we were competing internationally but against people who suffered the same challenges of isolation from regular top level competition that we did – and blessed with home advantage our athletes succeeded. The biggest legacy of the 1985 Games was that it gave the Island the self-belief to see itself as a sporting nation in its own right and not as an adjunct to our bigger sporting neighbours.
Q. What were the impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games on sport (including venues) and physical activity on your island?
A. In terms of facilities at the time there was no real impact – historically the development of facilities had been driven by tourism and the local sporting community used the facilities provided for tourists during the winter. The 1985 Games used tourist facilities and there was little investment. What the Games did achieve, however, was a change in the mindset of the sporting commumity and the subsequent development of facilities like the National Sports Centre were built for the local community and tourist use was an additional benefit.
In terms of participation it had some impact because it gave our young people something to aim for. Before Island Games the aspiration was to represent the Island at Commonwealth Games level; and the gap between local competition with occasional forrays off-Island and Commonwealth Games was too large. The opprtunity to represent the Island at Island Games was a more realistic target for many. Having said that if you look back to 1985 with the benefit of hindsight it was also a big missed opportunity in terms of participation because there was no legacy programme.
Q. Did hosting the Games in 1985 influence the popularity and importance of the NatWest Island Games on your island?
A. As the first ever Games 1985 created the image. At the end of those first Games, which was originally intended to be a one-off event, the team managers got together and agreed to repeat the event – this was the birth of IIGA as we know it today. The Island Games has a special place in the hearts of the Manx sporting public- it was born of Manx parents and went on to grow and flourish in the big wild world. That special affection remains today especially as many of those who went on to become the leading lights in Manx sport were involved as competitors in the early days.
Q. What were the economic impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games on your island?
A. Economically 1985, both the Games themselves and Year of Sport, was regarded as a success – it brought a lot of visitors to the Island at times when otherwise there would have been empty beds; and those visitors contributed to the visitor economy.
Q. What were the social impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games, particularly in terms of volunteering, the cultural sector and community engagement?
A. In terms of community engagement the impact was significant. It brought sport to the whole community not just to those who read the back pages of the local newspaper. Certainly it strengthened the volunteering base within sport but probably did not engage the wider community in volunteering.