In January 2021 members of Athletics Norfolk Island will gather at the Norfolk Island Airport to welcome athletes arriving to compete in the 2021 Oceania Masters Athletics Championships.
With expected competitors to number over three hundred, they will quickly discover however, that a very genuine welcome will come to them from almost the entire Norfolk population. Such is the nature of small and personal Norfolk Island, they’ll find here an island-wide buzz of excitement and embracing of the event and their unfolding achievements.
For those of us who perhaps find it challenging to even get up off the couch there will be plenty of inspiration to be found in arriving competitors who, being ‘Masters’ age, will range from their thirties to nineties. Masters Athletics Associations can be found worldwide, all providing opportunities for their members to continue enjoying and competing in track and field events through all stages and years of life. The Oceania Championships brings together members from countries across the wider Pacific and Australia, and Norfolk Island is the ideal location for a brilliant ‘Meet’.
A short two and a half hour flight from Brisbane or Sydney, or a one and a half hour flight from Auckland, sub-tropical Norfolk Island has a culture and history intimately linked with the wider Pacific. The Islanders are descendants from the 1790 Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian wives, who hid out and then settled on remote Pitcairn Island after casting Captain Bligh and his sympathisers adrift in a small long-boat, not long after ending an extended stay on alluring Tahiti. After relocating en-masse to Norfolk in 1856, today there are plenty of lead mutineer Fletcher Christian descendants to be found, possibly even a few competing track side in 2021!
Having previously hosted a South Pacific Mini Games, the Islanders have an appreciation of the organisation and logistics required to successfully run an event of this size. As tourism is the main industry on the island, a wide range of accommodation, car hire options, tours and activities all currently exist. Competitors will find that it’s incredibly quick and easy to get arounds this 8km x 5km sized island, with next to no traffic or parking hassles. Cafés, bistros and restaurants serve up fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce as well as local beef, pork or fish (usually caught that day).
Sporting facilities include the Malcolm Champion Oval and longer distance courses will wind through spectacular World Heritage listed Kingston. Perhaps the ghost of Kingston’s former convict inhabitants will enjoy the spirit of athletes ‘running for their life’ throughout these events! The main road in this area re-named Quality Row by the arriving Pitcairner’s in 1856, provides a clue to the majesty and number of soldier’s barracks and officer’s houses to be found. Together with the gaol complex and other convict used buildings in the area, Kingston is considered to contain the finest collection of Georgian architecture to be found.
Of course after a hot day on the track and field, competitors will find the crystal clear, cooling waters surrounding Norfolk will ease away ache’s and relax the most race-stressed of minds! Snorkelling is as easy as walking in off the beach or for those who prefer to catch their supper, a morning on a fishing charter will likely bring back a load of Kingfish, Silver Trevally, Amberjacks or Sweetlip (Red Throat Emperor).
For athletes who can spend a little extra time after the competition, extending their stay will mean they can not only relax at the beach or enjoy leisurely picnics overlooking sublime cliff-top views, but also take advantage of a diverse range of tours on offer. Norfolk Island has an astounding history, intriguing local culture and unique environment that can be self-explored or found on well packaged tours. From learning the local Norf’k language and craft of weaving, taking rainforest walks through the National Parks, visiting Museums, joining a bird or kayak tour, learning about convict life – and so much more, there’s something for everyone on surprising Norfolk Island.
In short, the 2021 Oceania Athletics Masters Championships will have something for all Oceania masters athletes combining a fabulous competition and holiday destination with great course facilities. For each athlete, travelling with family and friends will not only provide personal support, but add to the building of strong relationships between the overall Oceania ‘athletics family’. You are warmly invited to participate on genuinely friendly and welcoming Norfolk Island.
Image Credit: Visualisation – Discover Norfolk
Article content disclaimer: Article first published in Discover Norfolk, Volume 03 Issue 01, 2019. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.