'Come Alive in '85': The Isle of Man Year of Sport, the first Island Games, and the shifting sands of sport event tourism

Matthew L. McDowell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines 1985’s Isle of Man Year of Sport, an attempt by political leadership in the British crown dependency to host and create a series of sporting events which would serve as a platform to help reverse the dramatic decline of UK and Irish holidaymakers. To Manx parliamentarians and policymakers, sport provided a logical starting point for attracting tourists due to the island’s association with the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle road races, even though holding a Commonwealth Games in the island – a desired option – was considered unfeasible. The Isle of Man Government was additionally pursuing a strategy of themed ‘years’ to provide events to stimulate tourism. The Year of Sport’s events included the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, the Isle of Man Special Olympics, and academic conferences. Its longest lasting contribution to sport, however, has been the first Island Games (known here as the Inter-Island Games), held every two years since (with the exception of 2021) in small-island polities/‘nations’ on the Atlantic Rim. The Year of Sport was reflective of both small-island politics and of an emerging (if debatable) consensus in tourism and sport management circles about the tourism legacies, inclusive of soft power, of sporting events.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Tourism History
Early online date9 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Dec 2021


  • Isle of Man
  • Island Games
  • Year of Sport
  • sporting events
  • sport tourism
  • sub-national island jurisdictions
  • sporting event legacy


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