Ah, the Falkland Islands. An isolated collection of hundreds of sparsely populated islands and islets in the South Atlantic, the Falklands will be one of the smallest teams at the 2019 Island Games. On the eve of Liberation Day, we spoke to Mike Summers OBE, a man of many titles and roles including Team Manager for the Falkland Islands at the Island Games.
KUDOS: So, tell us about your role in relation to the Island Games…
Mike Summers: Well, I’m General Team Manager but I’m also the Chair of the Falkland Islands Overseas Games Association (FIOGA), which also means I’m the President – I think! – of the Falklands Islands IIGA (International Island Games Association), and (!) also the President of the Falkland Islands Commonwealth Games Association! I kind of run sport here in the Falklands, from an overseas Games perspective.
The role in Gibraltar will involve lots of liaising with managers across all the different sports. We raise quite a lot of money as FIOGA to support Falklands clubs going overseas to compete in different events…so Games like this, or the Commonwealth Games or, for example, the badminton team or the hockey team going off to play a tournament somewhere. Also, in July this year we’re supporting the Falkland Shearers to go to the World Shearing Championships in France, and the Falkland Fullbore Shooters to go to the 150th anniversary shoot at the National Rifle Association in Surrey. So we provide support to everybody to enable them to do their best overseas.
How far back does your own personal relationship with Island Games go?
I’ve been involved for a fair while in this role, probably 12 years. I’ve been to several Island Games – in fact I played in our first Island Games on the Isle of Wight, back in 1993. I played golf, and I’ve been to loads since. I used to be a member of the Legislative Assembly until recently, I retired at the last election and so I went in that capacity on a number of occasions, as well as more recently as Chair of FIOGA.
Often Team Managers tell us the logistical side of the role is the biggest pain – is it the same for you?
Well I get involved as far as I need to! What we tend to do is say to say to sports it’s your responsibility to arrange most of that stuff, but we do all the accommodation and all the entries, as well as provide about 50% of the finance this time. For the other 50% it’s up to the sports whether they raise the rest of the money through sponsorship or public subscription, or whether they simply pass the cost on to the athletes.
We do try and have a principal sponsor every year, and what they will do is cover all the costs of our full-time students, and they sponsor the kit – which of course you have provided. This year our sponsor is a company called Argos Resources Ltd, so we’d like to thank them.
With a population about 3,400, would we be right in saying the Falklands will be one of the smallest competing teams?
Yep, we’re probably the smallest alongside St Helena. We’ll be represented in six sports this year. Normally we’d be involved in the football, golf and archery but they’re not taking place this time, so we’re doing athletics, badminton, shooting, squash, table tennis and swimming. Our badminton players have been to Commonwealth Games before, and some of the shooters have also been to the Commonwealth Games.
So would it be fair to say the Island Games offers a fairly rare opportunity for your athletes to get involved in international competition?
Absolutely it is. It’s one of our biggest issues – how do we get proper competition. It’s, relatively speaking, quite easy to be number 1 in the Falklands! That doesn’t necessarily make you the greatest sportsman or woman. So getting that competition for a remote set of islands like ours is quite complicated.
Given its political past, Falkland Islanders must have a particularly strong sense of identity?
Yes I think that’s fair, although all islands do tend to, by their very nature, have a strong sense of identity. I don’t think I could claim that we have a stronger sense of identity than, say, the St Helenians or the Caymanians or the Bermudians. But there is a very strong sense of identity. In fact we’re talking today (June 14th) on the eve of Liberation Day – a big event that celebrates the liberation of the Falklands. And that’s a big part of our identity. And of course going to Gibraltar is particularly special for us because Gibraltar was hugely helpful in the war in ’82. We’re very much looking forward to it.
We’d like to thank Mike for taking time of what must be an incredibly busy schedule to talk to us and giving us such a great interview. It’s an honour to link up with the Falkland Islands, and we wish them all the very best for Gibraltar. Go well!
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