The Friendly Games
According to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the most striking feature of the Commonwealth Games is “creating friendships between people who otherwise would never have met”. This is why the Commonwealth Games is otherwise known as the ‘Friendly Games’ and the Queen stated that the Games stand out as a demonstration of the better side of human nature.
With the next opening ceremony being held on 23rd July 2014 for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games only just over two months away, I will look at when and how it all began.
Firstly known as ‘The British Empire Games’ it started in 1930 in Hamilton Canada. There were 11 countries involved with 400 athletes competing in six sports.
These individual sports were: Athletics, aquatics (swimming and diving), boxing, lawn-bowls, rowing and wrestling and made up the 59 event programme for this first Games.
Since it’s formation, the Games have been held every four years with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War
In 1978 at the Games in Edmonton Canada the title was changed to the Commonwealth Games.
What makes the Games unique is the representation and involvement of the British Royal family. The Queen is the current patron of the Commonwealth Games federation, whilst her husband Prince Philip was its president.
A message from the British monarch or any other member of the Royal family has always started the Games with only one exception. This was in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia when the King of Malaysia did it.
The Games events were for individual competitors only up until 1998 when team sports and events were introduced.
The first team sport was Rugby Sevens with New Zealand being led to victory by Rugby icon, Jonah Lomu, defeating Fiji 21-12 in the final.
Other team sports played at the 1998 games were the 50 over cricket, hockey for both genders and women’s netball.
The Commonwealth Games have been known for some great and memorable races on the track. One that immediately springs to mind is the men’s 1500m in Vancouver 1954. This race involved Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy. Both men in the lead up to the event ran a sub four-minute mile. The media described this race as “like a heavyweight world title fight”. Bannister went on to win the race with a Commonwealth record.
In Brisbane, Australia the1984 games played host to the first and only dead heat in major athletics track competition. This involved Scotland’s Allan Wells and England’s Mike Mcfarlane in the 200 metres. The judges spent 25 minutes trying to decide who had crossed the line first but they were eventually forced to award gold to both runners after being unable to separate them.
The most recent change to the Commonwealth Games that affected multi-event competitions as we know them was the introduction of Para-athletes in 2002 in Manchester. This was the first time that elite Para-athletes events counted towards the overall medal table in any major multi-international event.
The 2002 Manchester games are unique as the Queen opened and closed the competition, the first time that this has happened.
The last games held in Delhi 2010 demonstrated how far the Commonwealth games had developed since 1930. There were 71 countries competing across 17 sports. The programme included 272 events with 4352 athletes competing.
So from the humble beginnings in 1930 the Commonwealth Games has evolved into a prestigious multi-sport event for countries formerly linked to Britain. It has played host to some memorable sporting moments and hopefully will continue in this vein for many years to come to encourage friendly multi-national relationships.