The Maldives has been chosen to host the Indian Ocean Island Games in 2023 for the first time in the history of the regional tournament.
The games will be the first international multi-sport competition to take place in the Maldives.
“It is with great pride I announce that Maldives has been officially selected to host the 11th Indian Ocean Island Games in 2023,” President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih tweeted shortly after the the Maldives won the bid on Saturday morning.
“Maldives has participated in all 10 editions of the IOIG [since 1979]. So it’s fitting that we return the hospitality extended to us by our fellow island nations.”
The voting took place on the sidelines of the ongoing IOIG 2019 in Mauritius. At a meeting of the governing council, the Maldives won the bid with the support of four nations. The other contenders, Madagascar and Comoros, each won one vote.
The Maldives formally presented its bid to host IOIG last week after Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof visited Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros and Madagascar to lobby support.
As a founding member of the games, “the IOIG is an event deeply entwined with the Maldives’ sporting history,” the president’s office said, attributing the success of the bid to “several months of work on the part of our government to secure this outcome.”
The IOIG is held every four years with athletes from seven Indian Ocean island nations. It was established by the International Olympic Committee in 1977. The games have been hosted three times by Mauritius and the Reunion Islands and twice each by Madagascar and Seychelles.
The proposal to bid for the 2023 games was made by the Maldives Olympic Committee during a meeting with the president in February.
Earlier this month, a delegation from the IOIG council visited the countries vying to host the IOIG 2023 to inspect existing facilities. At a press conference concluding the council’s visit to the Maldives, Antonio Gopal, the council’s president, said he was impressed by the level of enthusiasm and commitment shown by the Maldives.
During a ceremony held earlier this month with Maldivian athletes, President Solih said he did not intend to spend large amounts from the annual state budget to host IOIG 2023.
“My thinking is to hold the tournament in the Maldives in connection with national development projects. The progress the nation would have made when our pledges are fulfilled will pave the way for this tournament,” he said.
In line with Solih’s campaign pledge to host an international tournament in the Maldives, the new administration’s development plan includes establishing sporting infrastructure in five regions.
Solih also reiterated “the high priority that this administration will accord to sport and to raising a new generation of health-conscious and active Maldivians,” according to the president’s office.
Addressing concerns about the cost of hosting IOIG, the president’s office noted on Saturday “that any infrastructural work done that is necessary to host the next games will occur within the overall framework of our national development plan to serve long-term needs.”
The Maldives has so far won 13 medals in this year’s games, including the first gold medal in a team event and the first gold medal for badminton in an international tournament. Maldivian athletes also won silver and bronze in track, field and men’s singles badminton.
In the previous nine editions of IOIG, the Maldives only brought home one gold medal, which was won in 2015 by Hassan Saaid in the men’s 100-meter sprint.