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History of
THE WORLD HEAVY EVENTS CHAMPIONSHIPS

 

 A personal view by David Webster O.B.E.*,  Founder of these World Championships.

 

  I have been interested in and attended Highland games since the late 1930's and first became involved in the organisation of these in 1947.  I first took an international team of Highland Games athletes to America and Canada in 1964 and have been travelling the world with such athletes ever since. I invited the great Bill Anderson M.B.E., Jay Scott, Sandy Sutherland, Louis McInnes, Jock McColl and Andy Robin to join me with THE WONDERFUL WORLD of SPORT, appearing at major venues in America and Canada. It was the start of a new life-style for top-line Highland heavies and me.

   The following year I organised the first international floodlit Highland Gathering at the International Sports Exhibition at the historical and famous Crystal Palace, London. The team included the usual favourites plus Arthur Rowe, Britain's best shot-putter at the Rome Olympics and my good friend, massive Dave Prowse, who became legendary in his depiction of Darth Vador in Star Wars. Helping  British trade exports drives during that era we appeared in many overseas countries including Sweden, America, Canada, Australia and Japan.. I loved the people of America and Canada, regardless of whether or not they were of Scottish descent and I was determined to forge closer links to cement these sporting and cultural relationships. Ideas of major international competitions began to be formed at this time.   

 My home town of Aberdeen, Scotland had not had Highland games in the city for more than half a century and the revival of these needed a star attraction to make it unique amongst the many games in the north east, still a stronghold of such gatherings. In order to maintain balance with progress and development at home as well as abroad, in 1970 after discussions with Arrol Winning, noted local authority Parks Director, I proposed a World Caber Tossing Championship. I learned a lot from these experiences and took the next major step in 1972 when I invited Lord and Lady Aberdeen to travel to Australia for a one-off World Caber tossing championships. It was a one-off as we wanted to have Aberdeen as the home base for World Championships. Aberdeen city has been blessed with excellent Parks administrators and Arrol Winning's successor, David Walsh, and his assistant Forbes Copeland did sterling work for Highland games.

The World Championship Officially Registered

   While we were in Australia numerous discussions took place and as a result of these the World Highland Games Heavy Events Championships were legally registered in London on 25th May 1973. (Registration Number 28203)

 We consolidated over the next few years with numerous international TV appearances to gain the profile sought by sponsors and I was honoured when the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire asked me to organise the Queens Jubilee Highland Games at Blair House. This is mentioned as this is being written at the end of another Royal Jubilee year and the explosion of Highland games, worldwide, as compared with the previous Jubilee is astounding and heart-warming.  

  The first World Championship organised in America was in Ponoma in southern California near Los Angeles. America's entries included Fred Vaughan, Tom Johnston and John Ross. Sir Billy Sneddon, Australia's Speaker in Parliament, accompanied Colin Mathieson, the athlete representing Australia in that competition. Sir Billy made an excellent and successful bid to host the championship in 1981. It was an outstanding success.  

 The World Championships were now well established and we have never looked back. The competitions for the title have been all over the globe - Europe, Africa, America and Australia, Scandinavia and of course Scotland. Only this week as I write, Bruce Campbell, the energetic editor of Celtic World, the super newspaper giving the best coverage of Highland games, commended this wide ranging policy. The organisers of World Championships have to provide an excellent prize list, fine facilities, good publicity, first class organisation, sound administration and an excellent venue. The infrastructure, combining the forces of local organisations, officials and voluntary enthusiasts, works very well at various levels. Things like officiating, scorekeeping and good communication are essential for events of world championship standard and these are very important aspects of the package offered at Antigonish.

 SUPPORT FROM THE CHAMPIONS

  Many Scottish Highlanders have competed in Canadian games and superb Canadian athletes such as Antigonish’s local hero Doug MacDonald, Harry Macdonald, Dan Markovic, George Chaippa and Dave Harrington have all competed at our major events in Scotland. They have left a legacy that should never be forgotten. Of course these events could never take place and succeed without a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes and people like Don McEachran have met the challenge of organising a World Championship and is proving himself equal to this arduous task.  

 World-famous athletes from home have competed in these World Championships. Many Olympic Games competitors and Commonwealth medallists and sports champions from nearly every continent have entered the lists; the giant Okonkwo from Africa, Petur Gudmundsson, Iceland’s veteran of three Olympics, Jouko Ahola of Finland, England's Geoff Capes, Scotland Bill Anderson MBE, Grant Anderson Commonwealth Games  Medallist, American track/field stars Ron McKee and Ben Plucknett  are but a few of those who have thrilled us over the years.  

 Looking back to those first tours in the early 1960’s it can be seen that the standard of performance has increased tremendously and the international development of Highland games has grown beyond all expectations. During the last two decades the World Championships have been held in Los Angeles- Ca., Melbourne- Australia, Lagos- Nigeria, Waipu- New Zealand, Fredericksburg- Virginia, Oulo- Finland, Pleasanton- California and in various parts of Scotland.  

 In 2003 the competition will be in Antigonish- Nova Scotia which has tremendously interesting links with the Scottish Highlands and Waipu, previous World Championship venues.  

 Scottish immigrants moved to Nova Scotia in and while many settled there permanently, others built their own boats and sailed first to Australia and then on to Waipu in New Zealand. This year’s championship will link up all four countries and it is hoped that there will be worthy representatives from each.  The historic link between Nova Scotia and Waipu, New Zealand is well known and history was made when Matt Sandford of Australia won the title on 1st January 2000 to become the first World Champion of any sport in this new millennium. It will be 1000 years before any other sport or sportsman can take over this distinction from Matt Sandford and Highland Games.  Matt successfully defended his world title at Pleasanton USA in 2001 and 2002.  

 This year, as always, invitations to compete are sent to the foremost athletes, such as those of Canada, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, England, USA, Netherlands and possibly Germany.  There are good Highland Games circuits in all these countries except for the latter.  There is a developing circuit in Germany where Highland Games are held annually at Berlin, Krefeld and Hamburg. The outstanding German athlete, Omar Orloff, began competing internationally in 2002 and is creating a very good impression.  

 National organisations have recognised and supported these events on many occasions. Civic Heads and dignitaries of the highest calibre, including Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors, have attended them. Royalty has attended other Highland games organised in conjunction with the International Federation.  Having had past experience of the fine games at Antigonish we know that contestants and visitors will receive a very warm welcome in Nova Scotia.

   THE WORLD HIGHLAND GAMES HEAVY EVENTS CHAMPIONSHIPS HAS A PEDIGREE SECOND TO NONE AND THE ORGANISERS OF ANTIGONISH HIGHLAND GAMES ARE VALUED PARTNERS IN PROMOTING THESE.

   *        OBE is the abbreviation of a British honour bestowed by the monarchy. The full title is "Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire."  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth personally presented this award to David Webster for his outstanding services to sport and the community. The investiture took place at Buckingham Palace in 1995, soon after the Commonwealth Games in Canada, where he was General Team Manager for Scotland's largest team until that date.

   

THE WORLD HEAVY EVENT CHAMPIONSHIPS

    DATES VENUES AND WINNERS

   

1980

Los Angeles, California

Grant Anderson,  Scotland

1981

Melbourne, Australia

Bill Anderson, Scotland

1982

Prestonpans, Scotland

Grant Anderson,  Scotland

1983

Lagos, Nigeria

Geoff Capes, England

1984

Carmunnock, Scotland

Geoff Capes, England

1985

Carmunnock, Scotland

Geoff Capes, England

1986

Carmunnock, Scotland

Geoff Capes, England

1987

Aviemore. Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1988

Aviemore. Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1989

Aviemore. Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1990

Glasgow,  Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1991

Callander, Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1992

Callander, Scotland

Joe Quigley, Australia

1993

Callander, Scotland

Jim McGoldrick, USA

1994

Callander, Scotland

George Patience, Scotland

1995

Kilmarnock, Scotland

Alistair Gunn, Scotland

1996

Waipu, New Zealand

Ryan Vierra, USA

1997

Fredericksburg, Virginia

Ryan Vierra, USA

1998

Oulo, Finland

Ryan Vierra, USA

1999

Pleasanton, California

Matt Sandford,  Australia

2000

Waipu, New Zealand

Matt Sandford,  Australia

2001

Pleasanton, California

Matt Sandford,  Australia

2002

Pleasanton, California

Matt Sandford,  Australia

2003

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Matt Sandford,  Australia

2004

New Hampshire, USA

 

 

   

Netherlands, Iceland and Germany have indicated that they will bid for future World Championships.  


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