Western Isles athletes are digesting disappointing news after the announcement on Saturday (26 September) that the 2021 NatWest International Island Games will not go ahead.

The games, set to be held in Guernsey in July 2021, have been postponed due to concern about COVID-19 and its potential impact.

The International Island Games Association made their announcement following their virtual AGM on Saturday, when chair Jörgen Pettersson said: “This decision was not made lightly and was based on the responses received from the recent survey undertaken with member islands.

“First and foremost in making the decision was the wellbeing of all the member islands’ sportspeople and the impact that any importation of the virus into Guernsey would have on their island.

“We have waited for even the slightest possible opportunity to go on with the games in 2021, but we have to acknowledge the facts. The pandemic is not over, the quarantine regulations will continue to make planning forward very difficult.

“Therefore, it would not be fair to ask the member islands or the host island to commit financially to an event next summer. This has been a difficult decision to accept for all of us.

“I am truly sorry for this decision but I also know the determination in our island communities and I am convinced we will come back in friendly competition as soon as possible.”

Passing on the news to island athletes on Saturday, a post from Western Isles Island Games Association (WIIGA) said: “Not what our islands’ elite athletes wanted to hear but not unexpected in the middle of pandemic. It’s only a postponement, the Games will go ahead, it just means everyone will have the chance to prepare how they would have wanted to.”

The NatWest International Island Games are a bi-annual competition intended to give island athletes the opportunity to represent their community and raise the profile of even the smallest islands.

The last games, in Gibraltar in 2019, saw the Western Isles take four gold medals, two silver and two bronzes, to finish twelfth in the medal table. In Gotland in 2017 they won 14 medals, while Jersey in 2015 saw their biggest haul of 19 medals including nine golds.

The games in Guernsey in 2021 were due to be the last games where NatWest International was the title sponsor.

News of the postponement came just after Stornoway Running and Athletics Club had hosted their first post-COVID track and field meet on Saturday at the Smith Avenue track.

Under strict guidelines, the event saw athletes between the ages of 11 and 21 competing at running distances from 100 to 5,000 metres, and in hurdles, discus and shot-put events. Full results are at https://srac.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ogm-26_09_2020-results.pdf

The picture shows members of the Western Isles Island Games Team celebrating after the 2019 competition in Gibraltar (WIIGA).