The Island Games began in 1985 as the Inter-Island Games, as part of the Isle of Man International Year of Sport, and were intended to be a one-off sporting celebration only. Geoffrey Corlett, who became the first Games Director, not only contacted the islands surrounding the United Kingdom, but also encouraged the countries of Iceland and Malta, the territories of Faroe Islands, Greenland, Saint Helena, the Channel Islands and others to participate. Initially, fifteen islands with 600 competitors and officials took part in seven sports, with the total cost of staging the Games being put at £70,000. The track and field events were held on an eight-lane grass track, a far cry from the current games, which now use a synthetic track in a stadium capable of holding 10,000 spectators. So successful were the Games of 1985 that it was decided to hold a similar event two years later.
A list of IGA members (including current and former members) by total gold medals earned. Where there is a tie, silver medals decide placement, then bronze. As of 2011, every nation that has participated in the Island Games has won at least one medal.
From 2001, competitors from islands with a population of fewer than 10,000 (Alderney, Falklands, Frøya, Hitra, St. Helena and Sark), also compete for Gold, Silver and Bronze 'Small Island Certificates', with restrictions that Silver is only awarded if at least 3 compete, and Bronze only if at least 4 compete.