The first Bedfordshire International Games was held at Bedford Stadium on Saturday 10th June 1995 following an approach to host the first European Athletic Promotion circuit meeting in Great Britain.
Twenty-one increasingly successful ones have followed this inaugural meeting, with two Commonwealth and two British records being set in that time.
As part of the EAP circuit, the meeting was designed to provide top class competition for those athletes on the verge of international and national success but who found it difficult to get entry into appropriate competition at home or overseas. Whilst no longer part of the EAP, the Bedford International Games continues to provide this whilst also giving the rising stars of our sport the opportunity to take their first steps towards fulfilling their ambitions.
2000 saw a change of name - BIG; and it has since been dubbed the 'Athlete Friendly Games', where athletes are able to compete for themselves, in whichever event they wish, without the pressures of club, county, regional or national representation.
Over the years we have seen many athletes begin their campaigns for major championship medals in all age groups as well as those achieving seasons or personal best performances.
We have been privileged to welcome a number of overseas athletes to BIG over the years, notable amongst them are Carolina Kluft (Sweden - Olympic and World Heptathlon Champion) who competed in the High Jump in 2000, Tamsyn Lewis (Australia - Commonwealth relay gold medallist / World Indoor 800m Gold Medalist), Mary Onyali (Nigeria - Olympic relay bronze medallist), Emma Green (Sweden - 2005 World Championships High Jump bronze medallist), Nova Peris-Kneebone (Australia - Olympic Hockey gold medallist) and Gerd Kanter (Estonia – World Championships Discus Gold medallist).
Two Commonwealth records, Lorraine Shaw's Hammer throw of 64.90m (1995) and Kate Staples' Pole Vault of 3.70m (1995), head the achievements list with Janine Whitlock's three British records culminating with 4.46m in the Pole Vault in 2005 coming a very close second.
Many British stars have also used BIG on their pathway to the very highest levels of world athletics success and these include Jessica Ennis-Hill on track to Olympic, World and European Hepathlon Golds,Christine Ohuruogu in her preparations for both Olympic and World titles, Robbie Grabarz beginning his road to Olympic Bronze at BIG in 2005, Phillips Idowu on his way to Olympic Silver and World Indoor and Outdoor Gold medals, Jenny Meadows in pursuit of Silver and bronze medals Indoor and out at World and European Championships, Nicola Sanders, Marlon Devonish and Jason Gardener on their way to World Indoor Golds, Sally Gunnell in her comeback from Atlanta injury, Tessa Sanderson to her 4th Olympic Games, Dougie Walker to his European 200m title and athletes of the calibre of Donna Fraser, Darren Campbell, Greg Rutherford, Mick Hill, Jamie Baulch, Mark Lewis-Francis and Jo Fenn. In recent times we have seen many of our athletes go on to achieve great success in other sports especially at the 2014 Winter Olympics with Craig Pickering, Joel Fearon, Andy Matthews and Lizzie Yarnold.
As BIG developed, Junior events were added to the programme and we have also been pleased to assist many Junior athletes such as Jodie Williams (2010 World & 2011 European Junior 100m champion and European Indoor Senior 60m 4th place in 2011), Sarah Wilhelmy (World Junior 200m bronze medallist in 1998),Nicola Sanders (European Junior 400m Hurdles bronze medal winner in 1999, World Indoor 400m Champion in 2007 and World Outdoor Silver Medallist in 2007), Tim Benjamin (European U23 400m Champion in 2003), Craig Pickering (European Junior Champion and European U23 and Senior Indoor Silver Medallist), Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (World Junior 100m Champion 2006) and Greg Rutherford (European Long Jump Champion 2005) in their rise to the top. BIG 2007, 2008 and 2009 saw a number of events specifically tailored to meet the needs of Under 20 and Under 18 athletes in qualification for Global Junior Championships and Youth Championships. Congratulations to all those who made these teams and in particular to all who have medalled.
Wheelchair Events over 100m, 200m and 400m were included in the programme for the first time in 2002 with both races being won in fast times by Paralympian David Weir (T53). 2004 saw fabulous performances by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (T53) and Kenny van Weeglen (Holland) on their way to Paralympic success in Athens. These races have now become a permanent part of all BIG meetings and we were delighted when BIG 2008 was identified as one of the major selection meetings for the Paralympic Games team in Beijing with the Pan Disability races taking centre stage. Congratulations must go toIan Jones (T13) for his two Bronze medals won in Beijing. Similarly in London 2012 so many Paralympians who have graced BIG over the years retrned with medals notably David Weir’s (T54) 2 Golds (800m & 1500m) and Johnny Peaccock’s 100m Gold.
Men's and Women's sprint relays were added to the programme in 2001 and we have seen many of GB's top sprinters in action over the last three years. In fact, in 2004, we were privileged to witness the Olympic qualification time run by the men's relay team of Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish, Jason Gardener and Mark Lewis-Francis ably assisted by Julian Golding who went on, just 2 months later, to become Olympic Champions in Athens.
To involve grass roots athletics within the programme an invitational U17 100m East Challenge was run for the first time in 2006. U17 100m county medallists are invited to compete in this challenge and we hope that this may be seen as a very important addition to the counties programme in the future.
Since the inaugural BIG in 1995 in excess of 510 athletes have gone on to represent their country at Olympic, World, European, Commonwealth, U23 European, World Universities, World Junior or European Junior Championships. Many more have gained international vests. 2014 saw the 20th Anniversary of BIG and with the support of England Athletics we provided two days of competition opportunities for those looking for Glasgow Commonwealth Games or World Junior qualification marks. What followed was a highly successful weekend in the most glorious sunny and almost totally wind-free (YES even at Bedford!!) weather conditions.
In 2016 it was decided to streamline the event and to just host Jumps & Throws events. BIG ish 2016 was a great success with High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Shot & Discus competitions attracting athletes from Grass roots to International level. With the ability to spectate from close quarters in all events and athletes being able to warm up and prepare without interruptions of events on the track or noise blaring from the tanoy it was deemed a huge success. 2017 will see the same events plus the addition of Hammer.
Congratulations to everyone concerned. We wish you continuing success and with London 2017 and the Gold Coast 2018 just round the corner BIG is pleased to play it’s part, in helping you all to fulfil your dreams.