Guernsey 2023: The Island Games Return After a Pandemic Break

By Craig Brewin, Head of Research

After a short hiatus caused by the global pandemic the island games are back. Over 2,000 athletes from 24 islands gathered in Guernsey in July to compete in 14 sporting events. The games, which began life on the Isle of Man in 1985, and which are now sponsored by NatWest International have gone from strength to strength. This month’s games were the 19th and the third to be held in Guernsey. 

The competing islands are mainly British Isles and Overseas Territories, but have been joined at different times by Baltic and Mediterranean Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and even Prince Edward Island off the coast of Canada. The events change from tournament to tournament depending on the demand and the facilities of the host. When Gibraltar hosted the games four years ago the football tournament was played in Ynys Mon due to an insufficient number of pitches. 

The regular participants from the Overseas Territories are Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and St Helena. The standard of competition varies from sport to sport, but world class athletes have competed, including Olympic medal winners Kelly Sotherton of the Isle of Wight, and Mark Cavendish of the Isle of Man.  The tournament provides opportunities for international competition that many islands would not otherwise have, which is particularly important to place like the Falklands and St Helena. 

The Caribbean OTs get the chance to compete in international tournaments, have FIFA affiliated football teams, and some are members of the West Indies cricket federation. St Helena plays in the African qualifiers for cricket’s T20 World Cup, but the Falklands does not have many options for playing international sport.  But it is competitive in these games

One of the surprises of this year’s tournament was the Falkland Islands beating Menorca, Faroes Islands and Guernsey to win a team gold in the Archery. It was the Falkland Islands first gold medal for 24 years. Bermuda won two golds. Ebonie Cox won hers for golf and the and the women’s football grabbed a second for the island. The big winner was Cayman Islands, who won 18 medals in total including five golds in swimming. Kyra Rabess won three and there was one each for Will Sellers and Alison Jackman. For Gibraltar there were gold medals for Asia Kent in the swimming and Olivia Lett in the cycling, along with a team cycling award. 

 The 2025 NatWest International Island Games will be held in Orkney.