Shetland’s sportsmen and women, and the swimmers in particular, have made most islanders proud with their performances this week at the NatWest Island Games in the Isle of Wight and we offer them our heartiest congratulations. At midday yesterday the team was in eighth place in the medal table with nine, including four golds, with the prospect of more to come last night and today. That compares to a final position at the last island games in Åland of 14th (and 10 medals). Those above Shetland in the table are much larger islands with far greater populations.
At an individual level it is impossible not to single out swimmer Andrea Strachan who had secured three gold medals and was in line for a fourth last night. She and Amy Harper, who also won a gold medal, have vastly improved their performances from two years ago when they each won a bronze.
Success in sport is down to the hard work of individuals and their coaches, but underlying that is the high quality of sporting facilities that exist in Shetland, the product of wise if heavily criticised investment made back in the 1980s.
The parallel with the Mareel project is, of course, striking. The naysayers with their relentlessly negative messages have been out in force of late as the construction work has been delayed. Which is why it was encouraging to hear such robust support from the visiting party from Highlands and Islands Enterprise this week who recognise the national and possibly international significance of the arts centre. HIE chairman Willy Roe said Mareel could “change the lives of very many young people in Shetland”.
If only the biggest investor in the project were to provide similar vocal support. If only.