The Local Organising Committee of the XIX Games of the Small States of Europe hosted a press briefing earlier on this morning for members of the media and other Games stakeholders.
Addressing the briefing were Maltese Olympic Committee Media Director Maria Vella-Galea who explained that this is a first of series of media briefings which will take place in the run up to the Games. Also addressing the briefing were Local Organising Committee Chair Mark Cutajar, MOC President Julian Pace Bonello, MOC Director of Sport Charlene Attard and the Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Hon. Dr Clifton Grima.
Maltese Olympic Committee President Julian Pace Bonello, explained the important role the media plays in bringing the Games to the tips of the Maltese in public in general, be it in words, photo or video. Pace Bonello reiterated that the media’s expertise and enthusiasm are key to capture the memorable moments, the passion, the glory and the essence of these Games using a fair and unbiased perspective. The purpose of this media briefing was to ensure that members of the media are fully aware of the progress being made and the challenges being faced by Games stakeholders particularly as we reach a crucial stage in the preparation of these Games.
“Sport can be a major force for positive change, and I firmly believe that the Games of the Small States of Europe can be a strong force which will leave a long lasting legacy to our island” commented Pace Bonello, “As President of the Maltese Olympic Committee, I can assure of of the team’s commitment to continue strengthening the good relations we have and to work closely with you to ensure you have the necessary support to spread the GSSE message.”
Local Organising Committee Chair Mark Cutajar gave an explanation on the investment that has been put into these games. €5million have been allocated towards training programmes for athletes aiming to be part of Team Malta, and a further allocation of €60 million which were devoted the the refurbishment of existing facilities as well as the construction of new ones. These facilities do not only comply with international standards but were overhauled to ensure that they offer athletes, making use of them, the best possible experience. Cutajar went on to explain that an Olympic sized indoor pool is currently in the final throes of development in SportMalta’s Cottonera Complex and is expected to be ready in time for the Games, whilst the outdoor National Pool Complex in Gzira has also undergone significant refurbishment and is ready to host the swimming events in June. In the coming months, a handball pavilion, a gymnastics centre, rugby stadium, a tennis, squash and weightlifting centre as well as an indoor pool on the other island of Gozo will also be inaugurated all to the tune of €60m of investment which included a world class Shooting Range.
“Since we officially launched the Games a year ago, the number of hours put in by the volunteers in preparation for these Games have been immeasurable. All this is being done to ensure that all the delegations will have a memorable experience in Malta” remarked Mark Cutajar, Chair of the local Games Organising Committee “As we reach the 100 day mark, there is still a lot of work to be done, but am confident that the Games will be extraordinary”
Maltese Olympic Committee’s Director of Sport Charlene Attard explained the holistic approach that is being taken for all athletes earmarked for participation in the ten sporting disciplines. Attard explained that apart from following an intensive technical programme, athletes have also access to medical, psychological, nutritional and strength and conditioning services. Whilst the initial list of athletes is being drafted, Attard explained that six athletes have already gained their first Minimum Qualifying Standard (MQS) in Athletics, however they still need to obtain the second MQS by April. In other sports, such as tennis and squash, athletes have been competing on professional tours and have achieved some very good results. Similarly in sailing, judo and shooting, whilst in Basketball and Rugby 7s, are currently competing abroad and will be flying in the Malta closer to the date to be present for the local training schedules. Although table tennis has undergone some challenging times in the part months training is steadily progressing and there is cautious optimism for this discipline.
“Malta will be competing in all the ten disciplines and we are looking at a contingent of approximately 240 athletes. We are working hard to achieve our objective that of having the best medal tally in the Games of the Small States of Europe here in Malta as well as ensuring these Games will leave a strong legacy for future generations” concluded Charlene Attard, Director of Sport.
The Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Clifton Grima addressed the journalists and officials who attended and spoke about the importance of these Games, which will be hosted in our country. He remarked that this is not only a sporting event that will continue to raise Malta’s name in the sports sector, but it is also the beginning of a legacy that will be left for the children of today and tomorrow.
“Today we are giving a detailed technical background that shows the preparations that are being made for this international sporting event that will take place in our country”, said Minister Grima. “But beyond this event we want to introduce the culture of sport and physical activity in our schools, to nurture in children, from a young age, the love of sport and therefore lead them to be the sportsmen and athletes of our country of the future”, explained Minister Clifton Grima. He also said that these games will unite us as Maltese and Gozitans who will proudly support the country’s flag, and our athletes who will do their best to achieve the expected results.
The XIX Games of the Small States of Europe will take place between the 29th May and 3rd June and are supported by the – Government of Malta, , Sport Malta, National Development Social Fund, European Olympic Committees, Ministry for Tourism, MITA, AIMS, National Lottery, Wellbee’s Supermarkets, ATOS and General Soft Drinks.