Shetland will be represented by a slimmed-down squad of 40 athletes competing in eight different sports at this year’s Island Games in Bermuda.
There are now 100 days to go until the official opening ceremony in the Bermudan capital Hamilton on Saturday 13th July.
To coincide with that, Shetland Island Games Association (SIGA) today confirmed that – as expected – it will be sending a much smaller squad due to the high travel costs involved in crossing the Atlantic.
The squad, tallying less than half the 90-plus parties involved in Åland (2009) and the Isle of Wight (2011), will complete in athletics, cycling, golf, sailing, clay shooting, squash, swimming and triathlon.
Among those expecting to compete for Team Shetland this year are several sportswomen who achieved gold medal success two years ago. Swimmers Andrea Strachan and Amy Harper, cyclist Christine McLean and runner Emma Leask will have their eyes on a place on the podium again.
The main challenge facing all islands competing in 2013 is the high cost of air travel and local accommodation in Bermuda. The games take place at the height of its busy tourist season, and the island attracts many visitors towards the higher end of the market.
Fundraising has been a significant issue, with the entire cost of taking part estimated to be around £2,000 per person.
SIGA chairman Andrew Inkster said some sports, especially those with younger competitors, had put a great effort into fundraising, including sponsorship, coffee mornings, raffles and car washes.
Although some accommodation is still being finalised, flights were booked some time ago to secure seats on scheduled flights.
Hotels listed on the official Island Games page are quoting prices ranging from £250-£300 a night for a single room or £100-plus per person to share a double room. Even a bed in a school classroom, converted into a shared dormitory for the week, will cost upwards of £50 a night.
Mr Inkster said lengthy discussions on travel and cost had taken place earlier than normal. The final deadline for competitors to register is mid-May, but the team already has a clear idea of who, barring injury, will make the trip.
“There are also a limited number of seats on the only direct flight from the UK to Bermuda, so some of the team are travelling via Europe and the United States,” he said.
After around 3,000 competitors took place in each of the last two games, the high cost is predicted to result in overall numbers being “significantly down” too.
“The Bermuda team have travelled to the games held in Europe for the last 10 years and it is only right that we cross the Atlantic as their guests this year,” Mr Inkster said.
Another hurdle for the team to overcome will be the climate. July is Bermuda’s peak summer month, with temperatures averaging between 77F and 85F. Not only that, but humidity can be well over 85 per cent, making it “unpleasantly warm” at times according to one tourist guide.
The final team entry list will be published after the 13th May deadline, exactly two months before the opening ceremony.
Shetland will sit out the action in six of the 14 sports: badminton, basketball, football, gymnastics, tennis and volleyball, several of which it has regularly competed in.
The swimming team accounts for a sizeable proportion of the overall squad, consisting of a dozen swimmers, two coaches and a manager.
Half a dozen squash players, a quartet of golfers, five triathletes and two shooters will also make the trip. Maggie Adamson, well known for her musical exploits, will be the sole Auld Rock sailing representative.
Shetland is one of 24 islands from around the world taking part in the 15th week-long international event. This is the first time it has been staged outside of Europe.
Known as the “jewel of the Atlantic”, Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory which enjoys a large degree of self rule. Famed for its glorious weather, pink sandy beaches and limestone cliffs, its population is around three times the size of Shetland at nearly 65,000.
See tomorrow’s Shetland Times for more.