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Build Up to Rhodes begins January 10, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean, Sports & Games.

With Manx sport on a high after two years of virtually unprecedented success in 2005 and 2006, anticipation is already mounting ahead of the XII Island Games to be held in Rhodes.

With less than six months until the Greek island opens its doors to the cream of offshore sporting talent, Rhodes’s 110,000 inhabitants are preparing to show the world what their little Aegean home has to offer.

Steeped in history dating back to the time of Homer, Rhodes was famed for the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue of the Greek god Helios that stood as high as the Statue of Liberty and was considered one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

With an average high June temperature of 27C, in contrast to 16C in the Isle of Man, the biggest adversary for most Manx competitors will be the elements. Many will arrive a week early for acclimatisation, the effectiveness of which could be fundamental to the Island’s medal prospects.

The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes promises to provide a stunning backdrop for the core Island Games events. Indeed, the making of the Games will be the venues, four of which are truly unique.

One of the most punishing events will be the triathlon. Starting on the coast of the Aegean Sea before heading inland to the town centre, the event promises to be spectacular with hundreds of spectators expected to line the course.

The first of the Manx teams to announce its line-up, the triathlon squad boasts a good blend of youth and experience and should challenge for honours. One member of the team at least should not be fazed by the heat. Graham Stigant competed in the Ironman Hawaii triathlon last October when temperatures peaked at 36C over a course that included barren landscapes with lava deposits, the Rhodes course will be a scenic paradise in comparrison.

Having secured a superb haul of 12 medals in the 2005 Games in Shetland, the Manx swimming team should again be strong and will be the beneficiaries of a particularly inspiring venue.

With just two pools on the island, the 25m, eight-lane Nautical Club of Rhodes has been selected to host the entire swimming programme. An outdoor pool located adjacent to Rhodes Marina and within minutes of the main town centre, the facility is one of a kind and will provide a genuine challenge for those swimmers not accustomed to competing alfresco.

With the pedigree of Isle of Man cycling iterated throughout 2006 on the World, Commonwealth, European and British stages thanks to the exploits of the likes of Jonny Bellis, Peter Kennaugh and a certain Mark Cavendish, the time trial, road race, town criterium and mountain bike races will all be eagerly anticipated by the Manx contingent.

However, it is almost certain that all three will miss the trip to Rhodes as they each have bigger fish to fry, so the old guard of Andrew Roche and co will be called in to uphold honour. All of the two-wheel events will be staged on parts of the International Cycling Federation-recognised Tour of Rhodes course which takes in the island’s imposing medieval castle and vibrant town centre.

Being a Greek island, the importance of athletics to Rhodes’s populace cannot be understated. The greatest ancient Olympic athlete of them all was Leonidas of Rhodes, whose 12 victories in four Olympiads between 164BC and 152BC is unprecedented in antiquity. More recently Rhodes athletes have regularly competed on the international stage and produced medallists at the IAAF World Championships.

And this rich heritage is set to be reflected by the athletics facilities on offer in June when a new 2000-seater stadium overlooking the Aegean will host the track and field events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. For those who wish to draw some inspiration from Leonidas, the new stadium is juxtaposed with the island’s ancient track and is open to visitors.

Other events in the Games will be archery, shooting, basketball, football, golf, judo, sailing, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and beach volleyball.

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