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Councillors welcome bids for Tall Ships and Island Games

Could Shetland play host in the future to Islands Games medal wins like this, from the 2017 event in Gotland? Pictured was the bronze medal-winning triathlon trio Lynsey Henderson, Shelley Humphray and Wendy Hatrick. Photo: Shetland Island Games Association

THE IDEA of Shetland bidding to host the Tall Ships Races and Islands Games again was warmly welcomed by councillors on Tuesday morning.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee agreed to recommend that officers support the promotion of bids for future large-scale events.

The matter will be discussed again at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, where the idea could be given the green light.

Council leader Steven Coutts said after the meeting that Shetland is “ready to deliver these events”.

Shetland hosted the Tall Ships in 1999 and 2011, and the Island Games in 2005.

The council would look to bid to host the Tall Ships in five year’s time, and the Islands Games in 2027 at the earliest, but there is no guarantee of success.

The meeting heard from development manager Douglas Irvine that hosting more large events would bring both an economic and a social boost to the isles.

He admitted that five years ago, when “austerity” was biting at the council, he would have never have imagined presenting a report on hosting big events again in the isles.

Irvine said that the 2011 Tall Ships had a total economic return of £3.94 million, representing a return of about 3:1 from the council’s backing of £1.1 million.

The total cost of the Islands Games in 2005 was around £2 million, with £1.5 million coming from the council’s finance service, £400,000 from local fundraising and nearly £100,000 being awarded by Events Scotland.

South mainland councillor George Smith said the agenda item was “the most exciting report that we’ve had at council for some time” and added that these opportunities need to be explored.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” he said.

In reference to the Island Games, Smith added that tribute should be paid to Shetland’s volunteers who work every week to support the isles’ sporting scene.

North mainland councillor Alastair Cooper said events like the Tall Ships help to promote Shetland on a wider scale, reiterating that the isles can “absorb new cultures”.

Lerwick councillor Stephen Leask said the idea was a “no brainer”, while Ryan Thomson said that large events stay long in the memory for islanders.

“I can remember what the weather was like when the Tall Ships came here,” he said.

While there was widespread approval of the idea, South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan issued a note of caution, asking for more detail on the projected cost of hosting the events.

Coutts said there was a “lot of positivity” from councillors on bidding to host more large events.

“A lot of the benefit you see is around the community – the things you can’t touch and feel,” he said.

“That community spirit, the encouragement that individuals have to either look at sailing, to look at taking part in sporting activities. A lot of that is very difficult to measure.

“Previous events have shown that the community social impact is to the tune of millions. Again, that doesn’t directly come into the council, there would be a need to fund this and that’s something that the council will look at in due course, to see what the financial commitment would be.”