An academic based at the University of Edinburgh will be soon visiting the Falkland Islands to study the recent history of sport on the Islands, and in international competitions.
Dr Matt McDowell, lecturer in the history of sport, has been awarded £2,500 by the Shackleton Scholarship Fund to examine the Islands’ participation in the Island Games. He will be arriving for two weeks on Saturday, 2 December.
The Island Games, first held in the Isle of Man in 1985 (known then as the Inter-Island Games), are an Olympics-like competition, with member “states” being small-island territories, dependencies, and local authorities situated along the Atlantic Rim. Other members include the Channel Islands (individually), St Helena, Gibraltar, the Faroe Islands, Menorca, and the Åland Islands (Finnish islands populated by Swedish speakers). Former competitors include Iceland and Malta. The competition regularly has more competitors than the Winter Olympics.
“What I’m interested in”, says Dr McDowell, “is what role the Island Games play in Falklands society. We know that the Falklands’ participation in the Commonwealth Games (another Olympics-like tournament which features nations of the former British Empire) is all about expressing British-ness. Their first appearance at the Commonwealths was in 1982, only a few months after the Argentine invasion. It is a statement about identity and sovereignty.
“However, the Falklands win medals in the Island Games, especially in the rifle, shotgun, and archery events. The list of competitors might include, but certainly extends, far beyond former British colonies. And, sport development is a continuing priority for the Falkland Islands Government: it recruits development officers and coaches from abroad.
“So, does the Falkland Islands’ participation in the Island Games tell us a somewhat different story: one about the Islands’ other international relationships, and how the Islands plan to manage globalisation in the twenty-first century?”
Beyond that, McDowell is interested in the experiences of athletes, coaches, managers, and administrators, the training, and the kinds of facilities available in the Falklands. “I also imagine there will be lots of tales of travelling from the Islands to various Games venues,” says McDowell. He will also be performing research at the Jane Cameron National Archives.
McDowell is also preparing an article on the first Island Games in the Isle of Man in 1985, and his trip to the Falklands is part of a larger book project on the history of the Island Games. He regularly visits the Shetland Islands, and has spent considerable time in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland (the Western Isles are also a competitor in the Island Games). This will be McDowell’s first visit to the Falklands, however. “I expect it will be a cooler summer than I was used to growing up in New Jersey”, states McDowell, “but living for years in Scotland, I’ll probably be right at home.”
Mike Summers is Falklands Islands Games Chairmen and he said: We have been in regular contact with Mr McDowell to assit with his project.
We will be interested in the outcome of his studies to further understand the role of sport in development of young people, and in offering opportunities for leadership and travel at all levels. The Falkland Islands is particularly isolated in a sporting context, and the Island Games offers a great opportunity for sports men and women of all ages to compete for places to represent their country.