Jousting knights and fire throwing gymnasts welcomed Team Shetland at tonight’s opening ceremony in Visby ready for the start of the Gotland 2017 island games.
Thousands gathered around the town’s towering medieval wall, with bursts of blues, reds and yellows snaking through the cobbled streets among the flag bearers.
Leading the lengthy line of Shetlanders was David Clubb. Originally from the isles, he now lives in Gotland with his family.
He said it was wonderful to be leading the team into the opening ceremony and welcoming the athletes was the highlight of their eight years in Gotland.
Asked if it was good to meet up with some old faces, he replied: “There’s a few old timers here, but I was struck by how many young people there were here that I didn’t actually know, but I know a lot of their parents.”
David, a previous games competitor in the football, said he’d be trying to fit in as many events as possible to support the team.
“The weather’s been a bit mixed, but for the outdoor sports that’s in our interests. It can get pretty warm here, maybe too hot for some of the outdoor sports I think. I think they’ll get a great reception and great hospitality.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the island about this, people have been looking forward to it for years so I think they’ll have a great experience and super memories.”
Table tennis player Joan Smith and athlete Faye Cox were among the wave of blue as the crowd of athletes entered the arena.
Smith held the Shetland flag aloft and after the unveiling of the games sculpture, water carrier Cox poured her carefully collected offering from Unst onto the metal artwork of islands.
Watching on in the stands were members of the Shetland Supporters Group, who had arrived that day on a ferry from the Swedish mainland.
Member Dougie Grant said the group was celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and 40 supporters had made the trip to Gotland, via Aberdeen, Amsterdam and Stockholm.
The oldest member is 82-year-old John Hunter.
Dougie said they had a lot of games memories from over the years “We’ve seen some fantastic sports and some lovely medals,” he said and he even watched the sailing in Bermuda.
Dougie added he was “very much looking forward” to the games, which kicks off tomorrow with events including the triathlon.
Meanwhile, former SIGA chairman Andrew Inkster was suited and booted for the ocassion, having been elected to serve on the executive committee of the International Island Games Association.
“It was an absolutely fantastic opening ceremony, it’s a new role for me on the island games executive committee, but I’m looking forward to a fantastic week on a fantastic island,” he said.
“It’s been a spectacular start to what will be a really good week.”