Regarding the Cancellation of the Athletics Competition

Please see below for a statement from the Portland Highland Games Association President, Will Beattie.


There have been many questions, conversations, and critiques regarding the cancellation of the Heavy Athletics portion of this year’s Games since we announced it, and I would like to take a minute to address them.

First, I and the Board fully understand how upset the community is over what has happened and the decision to cancel the athletics competition. We, too, are disappointed and disheartened that this well-recognized and loved portion of this event cannot happen this year. We know travel/summer plans are made around the Portland Highland Games and the Board can’t apologize enough.

The Board of Trustees was informed just a few weeks ago that little-to-no progress was made to organize the athletics competition. This was a surprise to us, and given the lateness of that news, it left us with very limited options. We held numerous emergency meetings to explore those options, including reaching out to other Games for help, or again cancelling the full Games. But we were facing a critical deadline: our insurance application was due, which is necessary to host the Games. It requires we have the competition organized, documented and details nailed down. We had none of that from the organizing group leading the athletics portion, nor could we get that (even if we asked for external help) in time to submit the necessary insurance information.

This is not something that anyone wanted or expected. We had full intention to run the 2023 Games with ALL events available. It was an incredibly difficult decision for the Board of Trustees to cancel the athletics competition, but we made it to salvage the rest of the Games for 2023 and be able to hold this loved cultural event.

I have gathered some key questions that have come up and provided answers below:

  1. Without the athletics, are you going to reduce prices?
    1. This is a yes/no scenario.
    2. Assuming a full Games was happening, we were planning on increasing the cost of admissions to account for the increase in cost of our contracted and rented services. For example, security costs have doubled and our audio equipment rentals are ~5x the price from 2019.
    3. To compensate for the smaller games and the reduced rental/security requirements, we did reduce the price of admissions back down to similar prices from 2019. We even added an additional discount ticket for seniors and military service.
  2. Can I get a refund?
    1. If you purchased a ticket or rented a clan space prior to our announcement regarding the athletics competition and feel you need a refund, I will make that happen.
  3. Is it still a Highland Games if there is no athletics competition?
    1. When the Portland Highland Games was founded, there was no athletics competition. The original Games were only bagpiping, drumming, and dance competition.
    2. As time went on, the athletics competition was introduced as an additional small competition in Scottish tradition.
    3. The athletics competition grew in popularity and is now a large part of what we typically do in Portland.
    4. For 2023, where there will be no athletics competition, it will still be a Highland Games because this is an event which brings together the Clans, world class bagpiping/drumming/dancing/and fiddle competitions, Scottish entertainment, and a general pride and appreciation for the Scottish culture, arts, and heritage.

A note on the ongoing discussions:

  • We recognize and appreciate the opinions of our community, and your voice is important to us. You will notice that we have not been hiding or censoring any of your comments on our social channels, even those critical of the Portland Highland Games and the Board of Trustees. Your anger and concerns are valid and as an organization, we again deeply apologize.
  • Your voice does have an effect and the athletes/athlete-fans are a vocal group. While the anger and concern are understandable, please know that your words have an impact, including putting the Games at a risk of not happening this year or any time in the future due to low ticket sales.

The Board will investigate what changes can/will be made to ensure this doesn’t happen again and explore options to ensure no component of the Games is at risk if/when a factor (like organizing staff) doesn’t come together. For now, we are focused on accomplishing what we can to put on as best of a 2023 Highland Games that we still can, and we hope you help in supporting that.


Will Beattie

President of the Portland Highland Games Association