Aland - 1991 and 2009
Legacy - Aland Host to the 1991 and 2009 Games
Q: What do you see as the biggest legacy of hosting the NatWest Island Games on your island in 1991 and 2009?
A: In 1991, the biggest legacy was that it made the local people extremely aware of the Island Games (as it was called in 1991). Before that, only those involved directly in competing or administration knew about it and had a feeling for it. After 1991 nearly everyone knew about the Games and were very positive about Åland taking part. They were proud of the fact that, for the first time, could Åland sportsmen and sportswomen compete under the Åland flag and the Åland National Anthem was played. Åland has always had reasonably good facilities but several were upgraded, new tennis courts built, a new gymnastics hall was established, shooting facilities upgraded and so on for the 2009 NatWest Island Games. Hosting the event in 1991 increased the international awarness as this was before the internet boom. Knowledge of other island communities increased and perhaps also our local politicians became more aware of the importance of international contacts. But the biggest legacy for both Games is the pride locals take in participating and hosting the event!
Q: What were the impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games on sport (including venues) and physical activity on your island?
A: Physical activity has not increased thanks to the NatWest Island Games but some sports have noticed an increase in participation. Thanks to the NatWest Island Games, we now have seen a revival of for exampel Table Tennis, which had nearly died out after the 1991 Island Games. The Natwest Island Games has also opened up for young people to try different sports rather than just those who are more traditional here on Åland.
Q: Did hosting the Games in 1991 and 2009 influence the popularity and importance of the NatWest Island Games on your island?
A: See Q1
Q: What were the economic impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games on your island?
A: Hosting the NatWest Island Games changed the way local businesses approached sponsorship. We are fortunate enough to have local businesses which are extremely helpful with both financing and other sponsorship deals for our young sportspeople. Both for those competing in the NatWest Island Games and for those competing in Finland or the other Nordic countries. Thanks to the Organising Committee from 1991, the profit was left to a Trust Fund (Stiftelsen Åland Island Games 1991) and has since grown, allowing today’s competitors to get a share which cuts costs of participating substantially. Without this Trust Fund we would not be able to send as many competitors as we do. We are grateful that taking part in the NatWest Island Games is a open to those who love the idea of the Games and not only those who can afford to. The Trust Fund is led and administrated by HLM Dick Ekström.
Our local politicians are extremely aware of the importance of participation, for the athletes as an international event but also as strengthening the Åland awarness and pride.
Q: What were the social impacts of hosting the NatWest Island Games, particularly in terms of volunteering, the cultural sector and community engagement?
A: Our culture has always been to work volontarily in sporting events so in that aspect, hosting the event made no differnece. As the event is so large we managed to involve some that perhaps not had been involved in sporting events before which is extremely nice and we hope that they still support sporting events. What has been great hosting the event is that it has brought culture and sports together instead of sitting on either side of the fence. Our young artists, musicians and singers have been incouraged to take part and the Opening Ceremony in 2009 was a brilliant display of local talent bringing culture and sports together.
The fountain which is in the square of Mariehamn was created by a young, talented artist and also an extremely good example of how culture and sports can work together.
The inscription in our fountain in the square of Mariehamn says it all ¨Water is the element which enables us to call ourselves islanders. It’s surrounding us and separates us, but it also unites us all.¨