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Dear Sir,

Please allow me the space to comment on your recent article on the International Island Games. The article was about the decision of the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association not to send a team to the International Island Games this summer in the Isle of Wight as the pool is a too short (once the touch pads are in) for finish times to be considered for personal bests and records.

In these economic times such decisions are both prudent and understandable. The majority of the other 24 islands will be bringing swim teams but for most of them the cost is significantly less than that of our team.

The spokesman, Ben Smith, went on to say that the Games were of great value and that swimming have been regular members of the competition team, and had got a lot from it.

For the record the Bermuda national swim teams competed in: Guernsey in 2001 (the first Games Bermuda were invited to), Shetland 2003, Rhodes 2007, and Aland 2009.

The team have always been great competitors and terrific ambassadors for Bermuda.

Ben did err in his assessment of the pool in Aland. It is indeed a FINA regulation size pool. Also, in case the public should think that the Games are somewhat of a doddle for the Bermuda teams, our swim team in Aland claimed three bronze medals out of a possible 80.This is not, in any way, to denigrate the performance of the team merely to point out that the standard of the Games is high.

This all being said, on behalf of all the National Sports Governing bodies I take umbrage at the headline for the relevant article, that being “Games are a waste of time.” Had Ben said that then I would have simply spoken directly to him; however, he did not. He simply felt that it was not financially sensible for BASA to compete in these particular International Island Games.

Therefore, the headline to the casual reader was, at the very least, misleading. The Games are all about the “spirit” of competition about island people from all walks of life and backgrounds meeting for high-level competition.

With this is the chance to compare island-lives, the issues we share, the solutions we might not have considered. It brings Bermuda's residents together. Teams that would perhaps never have watched another local sport are there on the sidelines cheering for the Bermuda team to succeed (actually the swim team have usually been the best supporters of the basketball teams!).

The Games are also a terrific yardstick for local sport. If you can compete in these Games you know you have a successful programme. If you cannot then you realise your programme needs further developing.

There is no excuse that we have a small population and so just there to compete we have one of the biggest populations of the competing islands. Just as CARIFTA gives many of our young track and field athletes the honour of representing Bermuda as large team, then so the Games gives so many in fourteen sports a chance to do just that, and on a very level playing field.

We aim to hopefully (as per the mission statement of the Bermuda Island Games) “bring the island together through sport”. So to have a headline that the “Games are a waste of time” can only serve to damage a programme that is a terrific fit for our island community just ask anyone who has competed in it!

In these economic times funding teams for these Games is understandably difficult it is not helped in any way by derogatory headlines.

The Royal Gazette has always been a great supporter of the Games and we were pleased to have the sports editor with us at the last Games. As such, we are all shocked at this tangible slight on the International Island Games.

The Games executive have taken the bold, and expensive, step of having their semi-annual conference here next week, I do hope they will get similar coverage for the excellent work that they do. These Games are well established and will be the largest multi-sport event in Europe this year as such we are privileged to be a part of it.

The Games are to held here in 2013. This will be the first time they have been held outside of Europe. Whilst we all accept criticism when it's due, we also need to be supporting each other whenever we can, especially to host the largest sports event Bermuda will have ever hosted.

Jon Beard

Chairman Bermuda Island

Games Association

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Published March 03, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 03, 2011 at 8:33 am)

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