Flags are flying all over the Seychelles, including its pristine white beaches, to mark the 8th Indian Ocean Island Games. There are also several large screens in the cities showing sporting events for those who cannot attend the games in person.
The islands are full of tourists, sports enthusiasts, sports officials and the relatives of the competing athletes who have come to the beautiful islands to watch the competitions. The games were launched by the President of the Seychelles, James Michell on August 5, 2011 and run from August 5 -14.
The 8th Indian Ocean Island Games was originally going to be held in Madagascar but the financial circumstances of the country prevented this. The Seychelles gladly agreed to hold the games here instead.
The President and the people of the Seychelles take great pride in holding the games here. They see the games as an excellent way in which to benefit the country and further promote the Seychelles as a centre for international tourism. They also want to develop closer ties with their fellow island nations, the Small Island Developing States, through culture and sport. This will make the region stronger, according to the President.
The Indian Ocean Island Games is the major sporting event of the region and the most prestigious one. It has even been called the “Olympic Games of the Indian Ocean”. The first games were held in 1979 in the Re Islands. They are held every four years. The countries involved include the Maldives, Madagascar and Mauritius. The games include a football championship as well as many different sporting events. Some of the sports represented are basketball, volleyball, swimming and badminton. There are also going to be surfing and windsurfing events. 1,800 islanders will participate in the games.
This is the second time that the Seychelles has held the games. The first time was in 1993. Much has changed since then. The Seychelles, a peaceful and stable nation, is developing prosperity and has undergone many social and economic reforms. Tourism is a large industry here and it is helping the Seychellois grow wealthier. Prince William and his bride, the beautiful Duchess of Cambridge, recently chose a luxurious resort on the tropical islands for their honeymoon. This made many people more aware of the attractions of the Seychelles.
The games are part of a “social renaissance movement”, according to President James Michell, in which sport plays an important role. This movement is designed to develop the Seychellois nation through “the strengthening of social, cultural, moral and spiritual values”. Participation in sport requires keeping the body and mind healthy, discipline and persistence. It is also a way of bringing people together in a common activity so that they can cultivate friendships and contacts with others. In this way it helps to develop social cohesion. It encourages the best in people.
The President said that the games are a way of nurturing the Olympic values among the island peoples and connecting the young of these different countries. Young people face so many challenges today, including unemployment, violence and drug abuse. Encouraging young people to participate in sports and providing them with training is an excellent way to help combat these threats to society. The President urged his team to watch out for these scourges and use their influence to help to prevent their taking hold in the Seychelles.
President James Michel also wished ‘Team Seychelles’ victory. He hoped that the team would give their best and show the best of their country. Many of them have trained abroad, notably in China, and they are very well-prepared and trained. In the last games, held in Madagascar, the team won 35 gold medals. The Seychelles people hold high hopes for their athletes and hope that they will win several medals in these games as well.
During their presentation ceremony, the team modelled their new uniforms, presented the athletes and showed the songs and dances that will form part of the games celebrations.
The opening ceremony of the games, held on August 5, also featured a cultural show. This highlighted the Creole culture of the Seychellois as well as the culture of the other islands. It took place in the stadium in Roche Caiman Sports Complex at Stad Linite in Victoria, the tiny capital city of the Seychelles. This stadium is able to seat 10,000 people. The football championship was held at Stad Linite.
This stadium and the other stadiums and sports venues were renovated in time for the games. Minister Vincent Meriton, who was the Minister in charge of the organisation of the games, also ensured that the games village had first-class amenities for the athletes and the officials and volunteers. There are also regular buses to carry athletes to and from sporting events and for sightseeing.
The games will also benefit the people of the Seychelles afterwards. The artists were housed in the island of Perseverance and the games village is the first part of the 2 billion-rupee project, the Ile Perseverance Housing Project, due to be completed in 2017. The infrastructure of the village includes 286 houses, a modern kitchen facility, and a water desalination plant. After the games, the houses will be allocated to Seychellois families. The modern kitchen will be used to provide food for schools. The desalination plant will help to ensure water security. The island of Perseverance will become the 26th district of the Seychelles.
Perseverance is aptly-named. The people of the Seychelles and the athletes have shown true perseverance in undertaking the organisation of the 8th Indian Ocean Island Games. Let us hope that their efforts will be well-rewarded. As George Cupidon, the Sportsman of the Year, said, “Victory for Seychelles”.