Island Games chief Linda Alvarez looks to future after success of Gibraltar 2019

Linda Alvarez

It is fair to say that the atmosphere walking around Gibraltar on Saturday was slightly more subdued than it had been in the week before.

The country was a hive of activity for the seven days earlier, with it in the midst of hosting the 2019 Island Games.

There is hope now that the island can see a repeat of those scenes, with a sporting vision planned for the future.

Around 1,800 athletes from 22 islands competed in 14 sports from badminton to beach volleyball and sailing to swimming.

Doubts were raised prior to the event that some of the venues would not be completed, and there were even questions about how popular the Games would prove to be.

Without doubt, though, the Games have been an unqualified success – venues have been fullΒ and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

That comes as music to the ears of Linda Alvarez, chairman of the Gibraltar 2019 Games Organising Committe, who spoke to UCLan Live about her pride at the positive impact the event has has had on the peninsula.

She said: “It’s been marvellous and better than I ever thought it would be.

“The atmosphere has been fantastic, the people who have been here have enjoyed themselves and everybody in Gibraltar has come out to watch.

“When you host a Games you don’t know how much local people will come and watch.

“We’ve done a lot of publicity so we were just hoping people would come – it’s been incredible.”

Gibraltar’s Jessy Franco, one of the stars of the Games, won 200m and 400m athletics gold (Credit: David Parody)

Question marks over venues were quickly cast aside as the Games began on July 7.

Almost all venues were at full capacity as Games fever gripped the island.

Some people had taken time off work to come and watch the events, whilst others flew in from across the world to support.

Alvarez explained: “A lot of people had doubts that we would finish the venues at times.

“They’re not all finished but they are all operational.

“We have new venues – six new venues for all the sports.

“Everybody thinks they are incredible and the standard is so high.”

On the big stage, it was a huge success for not only the Gibraltar organising committee but also for the Gibraltar athletes.

The Cayman Islands basketball team won men’s gold after beating Saaremaa in the final (Credit: William Gracia)

The team collected a record medal tally of 29, including eight gold medals.

And Alvarez spoke highly of the island’s successes, saying: “You always hope in your home games that you will get more medals and we’ve exceeded our total medal count from before.

“It has been even more amazing because some of our athletes haven’t been able to train in the venues because they are actually being built.

“I think it’s a great achievement for us.”

Jersey topped the medal table with 33 golds ahead of the Isle of Man with 29.

The next Island Games will be held in Guernsey in 2021, followed by the Orkney Islands in 2023.

But the Island Games are just one part of a big sporting vision for the island of Gibraltar.

Before the Games was awarded to them back in April 2016, they only had one purpose built stadium – the FIFA-approved and licensed Victoria Stadium is used by all of Gibraltar’s football clubs and is now owned by the Football Association.

Alvarez said: “(The venues) have been purpose built because we want to set up a sports tourism industry in Gibraltar.

“That will not just be for our own athletes but to try and bring people over to do cold weather training outside of their own climates.

“We need to develop, which is part of the reason why the venues have been built to such a high standard.”

Tennis star Stuart Parker won gold in all three events he entered for Jersey (Credit: David Rodriguez)

The venue that was used for the opening and closing ceremonies will also have an important part to play in Gibraltar’s sporting future.

Alvarez stated: “Rugby and cricket will have their own pitches and there will be indoor facilities there including a multi-sports hall.

“Underneath that we’ve got darts rooms, gym rooms and indoor cricket nets.

“That can be utilised a great deal and we’re really looking forward to that being fully opened.”