Blimey, 14 years ago. And the odd thing is I have no recollection whatsoever of any Island Games pre-1997. My game was firmly cricket at the time. (I had only recently dipped my toes into athletics via my daughter Emma who was only seven then. Little did I realise what a big part of my life the sport would become in the future.)
I got involved in the 1997 Games as a volunteer; I put my name down for attaché to a visiting team and I was intrigued to be allocated Iceland. I eagerly looked forward to maybe escorting a blonde female javelin thrower or similar. My hopes were dashed when the team arrived at the airport – a party of four shooters, a team manager and a wife. However they proved to be pleasant enough company that week.
But before this I decided to invest in a new-fangled mobile phone, the better to perform my duties with. Mobiles had moved on from the Mark Ones where you had to heave them and their batteries around on your shoulder, but not by much. I bought a red leather cover and hitched the whole ensemble ostentatiously to my belt.
My first big duty was to lead the team into a recently renovated and packed Springfield Stadium, behind the girl carrying the team name, at the opening ceremony, and this was a surreal experience. There was a worry though. The weather was wet and cold, as it would be all week. There was to be a dance display by Island schoolchildren dressed in the flimsiest summer costumes and it promised to be a miserable experience for them. Then a quite amazing thing happened – ask anyone who was there. The thick, dark clouds which covered the evening sky magically parted – right over the stadium, nowhere else – and the setting sun bathed the dancers in its rays. The rain stopped, to start again later on. Sadie Rennard gave her first public rendition of Beautiful Jersey accompanied by a pee-ing Jersey cow which stole the limelight.
So I spent the following week picking the Iceland team up from their town hotel, delivering them to Crabbé and picking them up again later in the day. There are (or were) three separate clubhouses up there for the various disciplines. Each tried to outdo the others in the hospitality stakes and I spent a lot of time up there cadging coffee and biscuits. I had no interest in the shooting. The only bit of it I watched was when one of the guys competed at the indoor pistol range at St John.
Sometimes I got away to watch a bit of the other sports. The final day of the badminton – documented elsewhere in this blog – was excellent. The archery at Les Quennevais was dreary. The bit of basketball I watched was OK, but not enough to tempt me back. I think I ventured to the rainy track on one evening only to see the Greenland bloke do a solo run in the 10,000m. (Jersey athletics was singularly weak around that time, one gold only by Barbara Parker that year.) And I returned to Springfield to watch the football final – Jersey beat Inys Mon, I think.
I was instructed to transfer allegiance to the Shetlands team on the last day and had the devil of a job persuading them to leave the Central Hotel to walk to Springfield for the closing ceremony. I last saw the Icelanders at the Monterey on the Saturday morning. Waiting for their airport taxi their one medallist mournfully sipped at a bottle of beer muttering ‘get me off this accursed island.’ I don’t believe Iceland have entered the Games since.
So onto 2015 and I wonder how it will compare.