THE first team of athletes travelling to the Isle of Man for the Commonwealth Youth Games have already begun their journey – and it will be a marathon just to get here.
It will be round trip of more than 12,600 miles for the team from the tiny volcanic island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. The island is part of the British Overseas Territories, which also includes the Ascension Islands and the islands of Tristan da Cunha, and measures just 10 miles by five and has a population of 4,255. After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled to St Helena and died there in 1821.
The four athletes – Jessica Sim, 15, and Sarafina Yon, Tyrel Ellick and Myles Henry, all 17 – are joined by two officials, Jeremy Roberts and Wendy Benjamin.
They are travelling some 1,200 miles south to Cape Town, South Africa, by ship before beginning their 11hrs 30mins flight north to the UK, where travel will then be by coach and ferry to reach their final destination in the Isle of Man.
Because St Helena has no airport and it is serviced by only one ship, the RMS St Helena, the team is destined to be away from their island home for more than five weeks in order to attend the Games. The team are scheduled to arrive back on St Helena on September 22.
Eric Benjamin, chairman of the National Amateur Sports Association of St Helena, said: ‘This is a fantastic effort by the young athletes. Some of them have not left their island home previously except to visit the smaller sister island of Ascension some 700 miles away.
‘One of the athletes has never left the island at all. But distance and time is not going to thwart the courageous ambition of these young people to arrive in the Isle of Man on time for the opening ceremony of the Games.’
The Falkland Islands team, who are due to arrive on the Isle of Man on September 2, are likely to be the first team in the island, followed by New Zealand, who are scheduled to arrive on September 4.
The majority of teams will be arriving on the day of the opening ceremony on Wednesday September 7 with all nations returning to their home countries at the end of the Games on September 13.
Every one of the 66 participating nations will have at least one local resident team liaison officer – and two in the case of the larger nations – who are part of the Games Volunteer Programme and who will look after the teams when they arrive in the Isle of Man.
Many of the island’s schools have also participated in an ‘adopt a nation’ programme which has seen them learn about their chosen country.
Geoff Karran, chairman of the Isle of Man CYG 2011 organising committee, said: ‘This is a tremendous effort by St Helena to be part of the Games and epitomises the spirit and enthusiasm that pervades the event.
‘We look forward to welcoming St Helena and all the other participating teams and giving them a traditional Manx welcome and showing them the excellent hospitality that the Isle of Man is known for.’
Tickets for the opening ceremony and the sporting events can be purchased from the Welcome Centre, the Villa Marina or from the NSC reception desk. Tickets for the Opening Ceremony cost £15 and for sporting events range from £10 to £6, with concessions in certain sports for disabled people and pensioners and juniors.