History of the Commonwealth Games | Sunday Observer

History of the Commonwealth Games

7 August, 2022

The Commonwealth Games, often referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’, is an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Common- wealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and with the exception of 1942 and 1946 has taken place every four years since then.

The Commonwealth Games were known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974.

Athletes with a disability are included as full members of their national teams, making the Commonwealth Games the first fully inclusive international multi-sport event. In 2018, the Games became the first global multi-sport event to feature an equal number of men's and women's medal events.

A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by John Astley Cooper in 1891. He wrote a letter, published in The Times suggesting a “Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival’ every four years as a means of increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire".

John Astley Cooper Committees were formed in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to promote the idea and inspired Pierre de Coubertin to start the international Olympic Games movement.

Inter-Empire Championship

In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held at The Crystal Palace in London to celebrate the coronation of George V and as part of it, an Inter-Empire Championship was held. Teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom competed in athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming events.

Canada won the championships and was presented with a silver cup (gifted by Lord Lonsdale) which was 2 feet 6 inches (76 cm) high and weighed 340 ounces (9.6 kg). However, the 1911 championships brought some criticism, most notably by a correspondent of the Auckland Star, who described them as a "grievous disappointment" that were "not worthy of the title of “Empire Sport".

Melville Marks Robinson, who went to the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam to serve as the manager of the Canadian track and field team, strongly lobbied for the proposal of organising the first British Empire Games in Hamilton in 1930.

The Commonwealth Games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which also controls the sporting program and selects the host cities. The games movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) and organising committees for each specific Commonwealth Games.

Rituals and symbols

There are several rituals and symbols, such as the Commonwealth Games flag and Queen's Baton Relay, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Over 5,000 athletes compete at the Common- wealth Games in more than 15 sports and more than 250 events. The first, second and third-place winners in each event receive Commonwealth Games medals: gold, silver and bronze.

Apart from many Olympic sports, the games also include some sports which are played predominantly in Commonwealth countries but which are not part of the Olympic program, such as lawn bowls, netball, cricket and squash.

Host countries

Nineteen cities in nine countries (counting England, Scotland and Wales separately) have hosted the games. Australia has hosted the Commonwealth Games five times (1938, 1962, 1982, 2006 and 2018); this is more times than any other nation. Two cities have hosted Commonwealth Games more than once: Auckland (1950, 1990) and Edinburgh (1970, 1986).

Only six nations have participated in every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Of these six, Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand have each won at least one gold medal in all Games.

Australia has been the highest achieving team for thirteen editions of the Games, England for seven and Canada for one. These three teams also top the all-time Commonwealth Games medal table in that order.

The most recent Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast from April 4- 15 2018. The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham which began on July 28 will end tomorrow. After the Birmingham Games, the Australian state of Victoria will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games from March 17-29. (TBR)