Shetland Times Column 3rd July 2015


The Island Games are described as the Friendly Games... 

Lifelong friendships are forged by a common denominator – sport. This week all across Jersey men and women have competed on track, field and even the sandpit. Shetland has sent a large team to Jersey and many have accompanied the team to watch, support and enjoy this sparkling spectacle. It feels and looks like a major championship. The organisation has been excellent and the hosts exemplary.

Jersey is slightly larger than Unst in size and is home to 100,000 people. If Shetland had a week of weather as Team Shetland has enjoyed, we would have a larger population too. It has been scorching. An old political friend gave me a tour of the island. The roads are narrow and twisty. Around one corner is a tractor and trailer and the next is a Bentley. Jersey is an affluent island and that explains a population that has grown by 30,000 over recent years. Corporation tax is a fraction of that in the UK so companies base themselves in St Hellier. 19 miles to the south is France. The port of St Malo is two hours on a car ferry running frequently all day. But the financial picture is none too rosy. This year the Jersey government overspent by £25m – a figure that is forecast to rise to £125m by 2019.

On the island tour the evidence of the German occupation during WW2 is evident. Hitler wanted this slice of England under Nazi occupation. So Churchill simply bypassed the Channel Islands on D-Day in 1944. The German occupying troops only surrounded when Berlin fell in 1945. The coastline is an impregnable series of concrete bunkers and fortifications. The Royal Navy built many in precious centuries to protect the Island against the French. The Germans simply improved what the British had started. So it was no surprise that the Allies decided that the cost of retaking the Channel Islands before France would be extraordinarily high.

In sporting terms Jersey is very competitive. Shetland has had a very strong start to the week. Adam Guest’s reporting in this week’s paper will explain all as will Kevin Jones’ excellent photography. The highs and lows of sport are so clear at a major event such as this. But the management of Team Shetland deserve a huge pat on the back for the camaraderie and support for individuals and teams. That is all the more important when someone or a team who are expected to go far and medal do not. The collective hug and mutual sense of understanding and empathy was so evident at moments when a sporting success had not happened. That is the mark of a good operation. That people pull together in the tougher moments as well as celebrate sporting success which brings so much pleasure to all. It has been a privilege to lose my voice this week. And singing the Up Helly A’ song in a swimming pool will stay with me for a long time!


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