The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands is issuing a set of stamps that commemorate sports on South Georgia.
When Sir Arnold Hodson, Governor of the then Falkland Islands Dependencies, visited South Georgia in February1928 he opened what was acclaimed as 'The First Olympiad in the Antarctic'. This was the sports meeting that was held on the football pitch at Grytviken between the five whaling stations (Grytviken, Leith Harbour, Stromness, Husvik and Prince Olaf Harbour).
The sports started with a parade of the competitors marching behind their station flags and saluting the Governor as they passed. Field sports included shot put, throwing the javelin and running races, but the highlight was four football matches. At the close of the day Sir Arnold presented two silver cups.
The games proved so popular that they were repeated annually. A Sports Committee was set up to make the arrangements which included social as well as sporting activities. Each station also had its own committee for local events. By 1930, the sports had been extended to two days. In that year the enthusiasm of competitors and spectators was not dampened by weather that was described as 'almost as bad as it could be even for South Georgia'. Long jump, high jump and hop, step and jump had been added to the events. Despite the ground becoming a quagmire, the 100 metre sprint was won in 12.2 seconds – an amazing time when the Olympic record stood at 10.6 seconds. In the football final Leith Harbour trounced Grytviken 4 – 1.
Winter sports, at which the Norwegians excelled, started in 1913 with cross-country skiing and ski-jumping. There were ski-jumps at Grytviken and Leith Harbour. Rifle-shooting was added to the programme during World War II. There were also sports outside the inter-station sports meetings and the British administrative centre at King Edward Point boasted a hard tennis court.
As whaling stations closed, the sports meetings were reduced but the inter-station competitions continued until the 1961-62 season and football matches were arranged with visiting ships. Grytviken and Leith Harbour re-opened from 1963/64 to 1965/66 under Japanese management and each held its own sports day.
In 1970 the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) took over from the civil administration at King Edward Point and, in the succeeding years, the men established a number of sports. Badminton and 5-a-side football were played in the Kino (the whalers' cinema) in the Grytviken whaling station. Football and, occasionally, cricket were played on the old football pitch behind the whaling station. The combination of shingle and coarse vegetation on the pitch made a poor playing surface for football. For cricket it made a wicked surface for bowling. The most recent cricket match involved teams of 10 made up by recruiting two Americans from a visiting yacht who had never seen cricket let alone played it.
BAS personnel regularly challenged the crews of visiting naval and research vessels to football. Black-and white shirts in Newcastle United colours had been acquired from the manufacturers to give the team a professional appearance and they were regular winners.
After 1983, the military garrison at KEP added volleyball to the list of sports and continued the football tradition as South Georgia’s civil administration and scientific presence does to this day.
The stamps show long jump (55p), high jump (70p) and shot put (80p) at the summer sports and ski-jump (£1.00) in the winter sports whilst the FDC shows Football.
Text by Robert Burton.
Stamp Photographs: John Alexander
FDC Photograph: Walter Nurse
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Process: Stochastic Lithography
Perforation: 13 ¼ per 2cms
Stamp size: 36 x 36mm
Sheet Layout: 10
Release date: 1 August, 2016
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd