Några ord till Shetland

Jag hade i helgen den stora äran att på Shetlands stora idrottsgala hålla festtalet och dela ut priset till Shetlands största idrottsstjärna under 2015, simmaren Andrea Strachan som i en av öspelens allra starkaste idrotter visat styrka.

Last Friday I hade the opportunity to speak at the Shetland Sports Award 2015 and hand out the prize to Sportsperson of the year.

My words were the following:

Dear friends in sport, I am honoured to be here at Shetland Sport Award 2015. You and your islands have over the years become close friends of mine. We share more than you might have realised. Yes, the love of sport for sure but also and more surprisingly a common history and even language. Hang in there and I will give you an example later on. 

But first and most important the message from my mother. When she realised her son was up to leaving home a few years ago she took me aside and I thought it was time for the flower and bee-talk. She looked me straight into my eyes and I almost started to blush and then she said. ”Whatever you do, son, never ever forget to say thank you for the food when you are visiting your friends.” So… thank you for the advice Mom and more important. Thank you Julie Halcrow and everyone involved in this magic dinner we have eaten tonight. You are not only great in sport, you are world class chefs aswell! 

Talking about world class. The summer of 1985 when some of you were not even born, was a summer that would forever change island life as we knew it. Thanks to Isle of Man a number of islands were invited to their capital Douglas in order to compete towards other islands. Little did we know that we at that time made history. Yes, Shetland was one of the pioneers and you brought three bronze medals back to your island.  

Margaret Robertson, 3.000 meter. Peter Stemp, Long Jump. Tracey Conroy, 100 meter backstroke. 

I know. It s not all about the medals but they are also important and will forever be remembered.
The name of the first Games were Inaugural Inter-Island Games and we were altogether 700 competitors from 14 different islands. Last summer in Jersey the NatWest Island Games attracted almost 3.000 sportspeople from 24 different islands. And although the competition is harder than ever and in some sports reaches highest international standards Shetland managed to win 23 medals; 6 golds, 8 silvers and 9 bronzes which is a proof that something has happened on your island. You have managed to develop your sports and it never stays there. By succeeding in sport you are prepared for whatever challenges that might show up. I am not sure whether Winston Churchill was much of a sportsman but he defined sport in an elegant manner stating: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." I would like to add that it takes a lot of losing before you start to win and that is a definition not only of sport, but of life. 

You might think that your victory is the others defeat. That you knock them down, take the medals and go home leaving shattered pieces of your opponents behind you. Nothing could be more wrong. What you do is actually the greatest favour we can ever do to each other. By defeating them this time you force them to try harder in order to become better and thereby return stronger than before. By winning you risk loosing and sooner or later that will happen and your skill has thereby transformed to their skills. The best of you has become the best of them. 

Winning is nice but development and strong partnership in the society is better. And best of all is the will and drive to improve and challenge in whatever you do. Shetland is a living proof of that. My first visit to your wonderful island was in 1999 as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Island Games Association. We came here for a reason. We wanted to find out whether Shetland would be ready to become a Host Island of the 2005 NatWest Island Games. The first reaction from our Hosts was no way, we are too small. The second reaction was, hmmm… maybe we could have a closer look. The third reaction was, bring it on! I couldn’t possibly name everyone that was involved in that process and in those Games but I have to raise names like John Nicholson and John Scott and his team and Sandy Clouness who all showed leadership and determination and in many ways built the road to success that you are now traveling on. You are all a result of the visions that started in 1985 and was highlighted in Shetland twenty years later. I know for a fact that some of you who stood in the audience 1985 returned from Jersey with a medal around your neck. The NatWest Island Games started the sparkle that lit the fire.  

Even more important, from my personal point of view, was that we managed to convince one of our Hosts here tonight, mr. James Johnston, to become a member of the Executive Committee. Today he is the vice chairman and one of the key figures in the work that has changed lives not only in Shetland but in 23 other member islands. The IIGA owe you for the overall success James. And even more important. You did not only bring in expertise and strategic thinking. We became friends and that is, at the end of the day, what makes difference for real because friends help each other to grow confidence and skill. 

In a sense that is the very essence of sport and life – sharing knowledge and inspiration. We are improving our actions, training our ability and strengthening our muscles in order to reach higher, run faster, score more, shoot more exactly, act smarter and so on. In Shetland you have succeeded in the built up of a sporting generation that will leave a legacy not only in the medal tables, but also in the always ongoing work that every society need.
So. What’s the secret of success? Truth is simple. Hard work and a strong vision. I dont need to explain that to you. Nobody have worked as hard as you. You have refused to listen when your body have begged for mercy. You have stayed home when your friends went to parties, sometimes. You have competed and you have lost and you have decided to come back and try harder. 

Thats evolution. 

Although you sometimes have hated your coaches, your competitors and literally everyone else on the planet you have continued and you have succeeded. 

Thats determination and excellence. 

Some of you will be rewarded tonight but most of you will not. Thats how competition works and I want to emphasise that in sport you are all winners. Those who will get their prizes tonight get them thanks to the rest of you. Competition is the peak of friendship. All societies should take example from sport. Play fair, train hard and keep smiling! 

In the history of the world success has very seldom come out from one person only. In order to develop you need competition and you need role models. You need clear goals, rules and instructions. 

Shetland and its sporting bodies have managed that and have become an example for the rest of the world. We saw it in Brussels the year 2013 when Shetland was awarded the title European Community of Sport. That was not the first one, Isle of Man got the award in 2011. The members of the IIGA-family have become important players on the international arenas. The NatWest Island Games makes a difference and would not happen without local leadership that supports and develop a clear pathway for the athletes by inspiring, developing and investing in coaches and volunteers. Everyone are as important and without the thousands of hours of unpaid and work from enthusiasts that makes competition happen there would be no success. Their would be no NatWest Island Games, there would be no Sport Awards. It is the countless hours of volunteering time by those unsung and priceless heroes within clubs and associations that enables athletes to realise their potential. I salute you all who make success happen by giving away your own time! 

In fact, the NatWest Island Games have become what our Founders thought could happen back in 1985. Thanks to that vision we are harvesting success. They inspired island competitors to compete towards other islanders from different parts of the world. From our Games the step towards the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games has become shorter and comes more naturally. We have only seen the very beginning of that. I am convinced that the number of islanders will increase on the venues of the world. Islanders are confident and strong and they do not only know how to compete and win medals. They are also good at making friends and that is the most important part of every human life. We deal with friendly competition and with that start you can reach wherever you want to go.
The International Island Games Association is a family. We never stand alone. We might have different views on different matters but our vision is the same. We are building an Association that creates content to life in the most important place on earth – our home. In times like this and before and beyond, the world need good examples. Not based on greed and individualism and violence but based on the will to build a better future and a platform for all of us to stand on.
We all need role models. You are all such in your capacity as athletes, managers, leaders, politicians, sponsors and so on. You are showing leadership that will make a difference. You are telling the people of Shetland that it is never good enough to be a spectator in a world that ask for action. You are saying Yes, I want to take part. And yes, I want to improve not only myself but everyone else aswell. Tonight is the night for celebration and party. You are worth it. But tomorrow there will be a new day knocking on the door. A day that will say: So what’s next?! Because that is life. It never stops, it moves on from day to day with different challenges to which we have to adjust.
Thanks for listening, have a wonderful evening, enjoy your night off and be back at training tomorrow. Okej, Monday then. Because I want to see you at NatWest Island Games in Gotland in less than two years time! Thank you.

Så här kan det se ut när en ålänning hyllar Shetland. Här kan man läsa mer om festligheterna.
Simmaren Andrea Strachan och en knappt simkunnig ordförande för International Island Games Association.
I samband med Shetlandsbesöket undertecknades också avtalet med Gibraltar som ger den lilla halvön värdskapet för öspelen år 2019. Till vänster vice ordförande James Johnston och till höger yours truly.


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