In August 2011, Seychelles will be on fire. In addition to the usual summer heat and high tourist season, sparks will fly with the kickoff of the eighth official Indian Ocean Island Games, a sports tournament involving athletes from islands in the southwest Indian Ocean. The event is a source of great pride for Seychelles, not only as a second-time host, but also as a medal contender: the last time the archipelago held the event in 1993, the country’s men’s volleyball team took home the gold.
Even now, the tiny capital city of Victoria (on the northeast of Mahe Island), is buzzing with large screens right in from of the post office airing sporting events. Although the screens have already been turned to good use, they were specially installed for people who happen to be in town but without the means to get to a an event. Clearly, the Indian Ocean Island Games are not to be missed.
A Brief History of the Indian Ocean Island Games
The first Indian Ocean Island Games were held in 1979 (on Reunion Island) and were intended for a grouping of African islands in the southern Indian Ocean: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion Island and Seychelles. (Sri Lanka was also once due to take part, but sadly never has.)
The Games are both a football championship and an event showcasing many sports. Scheduled for 2011 in Seychelles are seven disciplines with both men’s and women’s leagues (badminton, basketball, judo, swimming, table tennis, volleyball and weightlifting), and three for men only (boxing, cycling and football). There is also a sailing event that involves lasers for men and windsurfing for men and women.
Originally, neighbouring Madagascar was the country slated to host these eighth games, but financial constraints proved too much of an obstacle. Seychelles, which had already welcomed the event in 1993, enthusiastically stepped in and is delighted with this second chance to open its doors to the region’s most prestigious sporting event.
Getting Ready to Rumble
August is one of the busiest times in terms of tourist arrivals in Seychelles, and the coming Games will surely turn the months ahead into one of the busiest tourism seasons in recent history. In addition to the 2,000 athletes landing a little before the games’ official opening on the 5th of August, the athletes’ relatives and other sports enthusiasts of the region are expected to touch down on the island’s shores in droves.
In further preparation for this, stadiums and venues have been given a facelift, and additional arrangements have been made to accommodate the athletes. The 2011 Indian Ocean Island Games village will be based at the newly built Ile Perseverance, which is not far from Victoria. In the village, all amenities will be provided to ensure athletes remain in great shape to represent their countries in their chosen sporting field.
In addition, the Seychelles Public Transportation Corporation (SPTC) will provide regular buses to transport the athletes and other members of the delegations to and from sporting venues as well as to take them around Mahe Island when time allows for sightseeing.
When all is said and done, this is the perfect time for sports lovers to plan a holiday in Seychelles. Visitors will be witnessing history in the making, but it is advisable to book a room in Seychelles in advance, because space is certain to be limited come August.
The Indian Ocean Island Games are a great opportunity for Seychelles to show off some if its prized stadiums. The impressive Palais des Sports, where the basketball and volleyball events will be held, resembles a ship and is the best such facility available in the country. The Stade Linité will house the football events and also serve as the venue for the Games’ official opening festivities.
In true Creole style, the opening ceremony promises to be an exciting event; this will be the time when locals’ friendliness and fun-loving Seychellois spirit will be at an all-time high. If the last Games held in Seychelles are anything to go by, anyone visiting the Seychelles islands during this time will be part of a once-in-a-lifetime occasion of people coming together to support their teams.
All across the country, flags will fly, including over the lovely white beaches for which the islands are famous, and visitors will receive extra smiles beyond the usual exuberant hospitality.