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Tributes paid to Gibraltar's sports media personnel in 'Our Sporting Heroes'

Team Gibraltar’s achievements and participation in the Island Games over the past 30 years was commemorated and put on display at the new ‘Our Sporting Heroes’ exhibition.

The exhibition is held in the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery and features five vaults filled with photographs, news clippings, video footage and memorabilia.

Over 200 people, including many athletes, attended the launch of the exhibition on Tuesday evening while it was formally opened by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

The retrospective exhibition is jointly organised by the Gibraltar Cultural Services and the Gibraltar Chronicle.

The idea initially came to Chronicle photographer Johnny Bugeja and to Gibraltar Cultural Services CEO, Seamus Byrne, separately.

The project first started two years ago, Mr Byrne said, where he had to come up with an idea to celebrate the history of Gibraltar’s participation in the Island Games for the past 30 years.

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On meeting with former Gibraltar Chronicle Features Editor, Alice Mascarenhas, and Mr Bugeja, who had had the idea to launch a photographic exhibition.

“I thought what was best to join forces,” Mr Byrne said.

“And the result of what that idea was is here in these vaults.”

The first vault features photographs from the early days when Gibraltar first started participating meanwhile the second vault is dedicated to the Sunshine Games hosted in Gibraltar.

The last three vaults featured sporting heroes from the more recent years and in the last vault there is a panel dedicated to the many reporters, photographers and cameramen who dedicated many hours of their professional lives in capturing the events.

Gibraltar Chronicle editor, Brian Reyes, said the exhibition is the culmination of months of hard work by a very small but dedicated team.
Mr Reyes said: “When Johnny first came up with this idea for an exhibition we had one clear aim.”

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“What we wanted to do was we wanted to celebrate your participation in the games over so many years.”

While this exhibition also honoured the effort, commitment and the passion the athletes brought to the many sports, Mr Reyes said he hoped this exhibition has done them proud.

“There is one other aspect of this exhibition that is quite important,” Mr Reyes added.

“I am not a sportsman, I am a newsmen and producing a newspaper is a team effort.”

“It is the same with television, it is the same with magazines.”

“It is not just about the journalists or the reporters, the photographers or the cameramen… it is also to do with the production teams and administration teams, and the man who delivers the papers at the crack of dawn.”

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“For me in this exhibition there is a very special panel and it is the faces of the news men and news women who have covered all these events.”

Mr Reyes paid tribute to the efforts to the many men and women in the media who have provided coverage of all sports in Gibraltar, including the late Chronicle sports reporter, John Shepherd Sr, GBC’s John Shepherd Jr, the Chronicle’s Stephen Ignacio, former GBC cameraman Alan Guerrero, Tony Avellano, Ms Mascarenhas who led on this project for the Chronicle, and Mr Bugeja himself.

“They are the ones who cover your sports day in day out, they are the ones who cover your sports year in year out, whether it is raining or sunny and without them none of this would have been possible,” Mr Reyes added.

The Chronicle first started covering the Island Games in 1987, when Gibraltar first participated in the sports competition.

Ms Mascarenhas started her coverage of the games in 1995 before coordinating the Gibraltar Chronicle’s coverage.

Mr Bujega began taking photographs of the Island Games in 2001 and has travelled to various locations and photographed local athletes over the years.

“I have managed to capture that moment that is gone forever, impossible to reproduce,” Mr Bugeja said.

“I have tried to give our local sporting heroes unforgettable images and memories that will never be erased.”

“But to be honest the journey towards the accomplishment of the project was not easy.”

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Mr Bugeja said transforming the idea into a reality required team work and effort from the side of the organisers for the exhibition, and thanked all those involved.

“Above all, in the taking of these photographs the support and friendship that I have received from the local press, public and the Gibraltar Island Games Association,” Mr Bugeja added.

Mr Picardo said it was only fitting to commemorate Gibraltarian participation in the Island Games in the same month that the border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed 50 years ago.

He said Gibraltar had General Franco to thank for his decision because this is when Gibraltar became a “massive sporting arena” during those years.
“Here you see the history of the games from our first participation,” Mr Picardo said.

“Those of us who are not a part of the Island Games team look at the images from 1995 and remember what it was like then.”

“These were not Sunshine Games because the sun was shining on the Rock, these were the Sunshine Games because we were all lit up inside supporting the Gibraltar team.”

Mr Picardo said he is overseeing the completion of the works, and said he is sure that on the day of the Opening Ceremony everyone will be delighted.

He took the opportunity to thank the “unsung” heroes working behind the scenes to ensure the games become a reality.

He gave his thanks to Linda Alvarez, Chairperson of the Organising Committee for the Gibraltar 2019 NatWest International Island Games, and Freddy Chappory, who have ensured that Gibraltar’s participation in the games continues to grow.

“All of these panels show us the history of the Island Games,” Mr Picardo said.

“Some of the faces here today show us the future of the games and the future of Gibraltarian achievements at the game.”

“Good luck to all of you,” he told the local sports men and women.

“We will be rooting for you, we will be shouting for you, Gibraltar will be 100% behind you.”

“And if you think you cannot go any further and you think you have reached the most that you give, look behind you and look at the Rock.

“That is what we all represent you, that is what is inside you and that is what will take you to the finish line.”

The exhibition will be held at the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery from June 19 to July 13, and will be open on weekdays from 10,30am to 7.30pm and on Saturday from 10.30am to 1.30pm.