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Team Gibraltar leads Island Games parade as athletes unite in spectacular opening ceremony

Photos by Johnny Bugeja

In a display of unity, athletes from 24 islands descended upon Guernsey on Saturday evening to participate in the highly anticipated opening ceremony of the NatWest International Island Games 2023.

Among them was Team Gibraltar, who as the host of the preceding Games were the first to walk into the ceremony led by flag bearer Louis Chichon.

Rounds of applause and cheers rang out across the large crowd that had gathered to watch along the waterfront in St Peter’s Port, Guernsey.

Also welcoming them was Dame Mary Perkins, the Chair of the Guernsey Organising Committee.

Dame Mary addressed the athletes, team managers, and supporters, expressing her delight at the long-awaited gathering.

"What a picture this is going to be, all you people out there, it’s fantastic,” she said.

“Welcome to Guernsey, a really great island. We 2,000 plus competitors, team managers, and everyone who has come to support you. It’s absolutely incredible.”

“It's been a long time since the last games in 2019… me, it's worth waiting for, 2023 is a good year.”

Once all the athletes and their entourage had entered the parade ground, the traditional ceremony of the pouring of the water took place.

President of the Gibraltar Island Games Association, Linda Alvarez, poured into the fountain the water that was collected from the ceremony when it was held on the Rock in 2019.

All the other islands then took it in alphabetical turn to pour water from their home into the fountain.

Swimmer Christian Chang-Chiplona poured the water on behalf of Gibraltar.

Speaking immediately afterwards he said his “heart is out of my chest right now,” such were the excitement and nerves of anticipation.

“I was more nervous about this than competing,” he said.

“I didn't want to drop the bottle, I didn't want to mess it up.”

Following some speeches, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived as Sir Richard McMahon, Bailiff of Guernsey, officially declared the NatWest International Guernsey Island Games 2023 open.

With this the teams from all the islands made their way from the parade ground and onto the waterfront for the parade.

Once again Team Gibraltar led the way.

Other representatives from Gibraltar who are in Guernsey taking part in the event are six members of the Rock’s St John’s Ambulance.

Medical personnel, Alexandra Hartley explained why they were there.

“In 2019 St. John's Guernsey came to help with Island Games when it was in Gibraltar. So when Guernsey had it this year, they asked us if we could come and help and kind of reciprocate,” she said.

“It's also a great learning opportunity for our cadets. We brought four cadets over to show them what large events are all about.”

“So far they seem to be really enjoying it, mucking in when they can and having a great time.”

The six personnel arrived on the island and will depart on Wednesday.

They did not bring any equipment with them and are using apparatus, including vehicles, that have come from the UK.

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