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Gibraltar is ‘the beacon to follow’ as Island Games comes to a close

Johnny Bugeja

Gibraltar closed the Gibraltar 2019 Natwest International Island Games last night knowing that many of its objectives had been met.

Not only did Gibraltar win 29 medals across all sports, it also provided a memorable Island Games which few would easily forget.
 Tired faces were on Friday still brimming with smiles.
Over 700 volunteers, over 2500 sportsmen and women countless assistants across all sports and organisations, and the many thousands of supporters watching events, had provided Gibraltar with what one official claimed was "a unified games where things had gelled together.
The many critics who had claimed that Gibraltar could not host such an event were silenced throughout the week.
The many concerns that facilities would not be ready on time were also put to one side. Competitors across all Islands had throughout the week congratulated Gibraltar for its facilities.

"You might in some places have a construction site around the facility but it is world class," said one of the many visiting media people who had descended upon Gibraltar.

The Island Games had bonded people together and unified many to make the games work. Even to the last day, locals had grasped the occasion and enjoyed events by turning up en masse.
Young children with mothers by their side were among the people seen, even on the last athletics sessions, running up the hill by Lathbury to watch the last of the races, not wishing to be late.

Most venues had seen hundreds turning up to cheer for their teams.
With 22 islands competing, locals did not allow their own team to go without support.

From swimming to basketball, from tennis to squash, badminton, ten-pin bowling and cycling, attendances were high.
"The most incredible thing was seeing children watching the sports," said Luis Chichon one of the people who had spent the past years organising the event.
Friday was to be the last day of competitions, and for many of those who had worked hour after hour ensuring the smooth running of events, there was that sense that the event would be missed.
"It won't be the same tomorrow," claimed a GSLA worker who had himself spent until 3am turning the Tercentenary Sports Hall into an NBA-like basketball court.

Workers and volunteers had worked over 18-hour days at times, but there was an inescapable sense of achievement.

Gibraltar's sports wanted to finish with a bang and yesterday managed just that.

Johnny Bugeja

Amanda Carreras ensured there was not one but two gold medals as she won the women's tennis singles and then the doubles with De Haro-Sene.
Basketball also brought through it is own achievements with two bronze medals.
Athletics claimed a bronze, and although a hundredth of a second had been the only thing keeping the 4 × 100m relay team (men) from missing out on a medal, they ensured that there was a record broken.
Records had been in abundance especially with swimmers.
Many records which had stood for years were broken.
Amanda Carreras broke an all-time record by not dropping a game through the tournament.
Squash, swimming and shooting also brought in medals. Shooting exceeded everyone’s expectations, bringing in the most medals of all the sports with local participants.
The last day of events brought home nine medals, bringing Gibraltar's total to 29 and smashing the past record of 27.
The closing ceremony was to mark the end of six days of competitions.

The Island Games were unlikely to return to Gibraltar for at least another generation.
It was now the turn of Guernsey Island Games Association to take over to host the games in 2021.

The closing ceremony saw many of the competitors turning up to watch the handing over of the Island Games Association flag to Guernesy, which will host the next games.

The ceremony was a short and brief affair not longer than the twenty minutes.

Opened by Seamus Byrnes CEO Of Gibraltar Culture, it was Linda Alvarez Chair Of the Gibraltar 2019 Natwest International Island Games who was to aptly close Gibraltar’s involvement in hosting the Games.

With banners lined up around Europa Sports Complex reading “finish” it was clear that the games were coming to an end.
By mere coincidence just like on the opening ceremony the Europa Point wind, with a somewhat overcast day, put a bit of a colder feel to the occasion.
The mood was, however, not dampened.
Competitors, who only had to walk the short distance from the athletes' village they had made their home during the past six days paraded onto the ground and lined up.

There were few spectators to watch the closing ceremony. Also missing were politicians, who were in Parliament debating the abortion Bill.

Johnny Bugeja

Linda Alvarez was to pass over the baton to Dame Mary Perkins, the Chair Of Guernsey Island Games Association organizing committee.

The closing ceremony was far removed from the opening ceremony. With less of the spectacle and entertainment. The focus on athletes.
Within the crowd Freddy Chappory former president when the Island Games in 1995 was among the VIPs with the Governor Lieutenant General Ed Davis.

Some unexpected guests also appeared at the top of the Europa Sports Complex roof with three apes sitting atop. Just as guests and spectators filled half of the main stands.

The Gibraltar Corp Of Pipes and Drums paraded flag bearers out onto the field followed by competitors representing each individual sport. Amanda Carreras carrying the Gibraltar flag.

As Seamus Byrne CEO of Gibraltar Culture commented this was the “friendly Games.”
"Many a tear of joy and record had been broken but importantly many friends had been made," he said.

This was illustrated by the parade as athletes mixed among themselves, mingling irrespective of which team they represented.
There was a jovial feel among competitors with singing, cheering and dancing amongst them. The pressure of the competitive side of the Games now over.
Even freebies flew around among them.
Linda Alvarez was to hand over a water container first presented in Aland in 1991 to Dame Mary Perkins. After the handover, the GIGA Chair addressed competitors.

"It doesn’t seem like a week," Ms Alvarez said.
"It’s been an amazing week which has lightened our island up where we have shared your successes and disappointment as if they were our own."
Completing the traditional handing over ceremony Gibraltar passed over the Games to Guernsey where it will be hosted in July 2021.
Dame Mary Perkins thanked Gibraltar for having hosted the Games in Gibraltar, at the same time describing the Rock as a unique place.
"Walking around," she said, "I have realised it is actually The Friendly Games.”
Dame Mary Perkins further thanked Gibraltar for putting in "1000 percent in making everyone part of their family.”

IIGA chairman Jorgen Pettersson also praised Gibraltar in his address, saying that Gibraltar had "opened its home" to the athletes who had been made "to feel special".

"In your actions you have inspired us for us to do even more," he said, adding that Gibraltar had "inspired and encouraged others for generations to come".

"It is now the beacon to follow," he said.
The IIGA Chairman officially closed the Gibraltar 2019 Games and called on competitors to enjoy the party.