2002 Inverness Highland Games Review -- Bumper Crowds Enjoy World Championships Preview!

The 2002 City of Inverness Highland Games was the 180th staged since the Games were revived in 1822 and the first gathering in the Highland Capital to last for 3 days. Friday July 12 was the traditional Children's Mini Games Open Day, Saturday July 13 was Games Day and Sunday July 14 saw the staging of a huge Highland Games Weekend Airshow starring the Red Arrows at Inverness Airport.

Staged a week earlier than normal on the 2nd Saturday in July to accommodate a request from the Elgin Highland Games Committee to move their games back a week, the Games enjoyed the hottest weekend of the summer and bumper crowds. (Thanks Elgin!)

The Games saw the erection of a giant 1000 metre long fence around the east and west edges of Bught Park to enable the Games to be staged in a giant arena with the Games in Bught Stadium and a whole host of attractions outside.

Friday July 12 saw the opening of the Armed Services Exhibition in Bught Park and over 100 trade and charity stalls for the traditional Children's Have a Go Highland Games. Hundreds of children descended on the Bught and watched in awe as a huge 40 foot ramp was constructed in the middle of the outer field for the Red Bull Freestyle Supercross to use the following day.

Nobody could believe that anyone would be mad enough to drive a motor cycle up that ramp the following day and attempt to leap across the gap to the landing area. Little did we know…

At 5.30pm the Childrens' BBC programme XChange broadcast live from the banks of the River Ness and gave the whole of Britain a taste of some of the Caber Tossing, Highland Dancing, Piping and Traditional Music that would be seen the following day.

Games Day (July 13) was gloriously sunny and the crowds streamed into Bught Park from every direction and from all over the world.

The Games were filmed by a film crew from "Awesome Adventures" in the USA and Children's BBC spent the whole day broadcasting their links between programmes live from the Games as well.

The action in the Stadium started at 11am, just before noon. Provost William Smith entered the arena with our Guests of Honour, members of the Great Britain Ladies Gold Medal Winning Olympic Curling Team. Janice Rankin, Fiona Macdonald and Debbie Knox had been honoured with a Civic Reception in the Town House the previous evening to celebrate their victory in Salt Lake City and how the crowd roared when they were introduced.

The opening ceremony started with the playing of the Inverness Gathering by 13 year old Ross Robertson of Strathpeffer before the Royal British Legion and Black Isle Schools Pipes and Drums Bands marched proudly into the Stadium and the action commenced.

And what a day of action it was! 6 hours of fiercely contested athletics and heavy events inside the Stadium and 6 hours of superb Highland Dancing, Piping and Traditional music outside.

The highlight of the Heavy Events came in the easyjet sponsored Weight for Height Event when Matt Stanford of Australia created a new Games Record with a 16 foot throw. After a short rest Matt attempted to set a new World Record of 17 foot and suffered the agony of seeing his third attempt clear the bar but land in front of the bar instead of behind it. A magnificent effort that had the crowd going wild.

The crowd also enjoyed two spectacular freefall parachute displays by the Army's Golden Lions and the RAF Flacons Parachute Display Teams and an amazing preview of the following day's Inverness Air Show as Jim McTaggart performed breathtaking aerobatics in Starduster Too high over the field.

For many folk however the Highlight of the 2002 will be the first ever visit to Scotland of the Red Bull Freestyle Supercross Motorcycle Display Team. Not only did they jump the giant gap between the ramp and the landing zone, they did it so spectacularly that you will have to look at the film on the link above or here to understand just how brilliant they were. A great show and a brilliant climax to a wonderful day.

The weekend ended with bumper crowds turning out at Inverness Airport for a return visit by the RAF Red Arrows who topped the bill on a programme which included the Utterly Butterly Wingwalkers. Anyone who saw Moray Firth Radio's Gary Spence's face as he landed after being strapped to a wing for a charity wingwalk will know why 2002 was certainly a weekend that will never be forgotten.

Roll on 2003!