Written by Manya Pandey, a first-year undergraduate student.
Commonwealth Games, otherwise known as the ‘friendly games’, is one of the largest multi-sporting events in the world. Much like the Olympics, they are held every 4 years at different locations around the globe in multiple categories including the para-sports for specially-abled athletes.
Unlike the Olympics, only the countries belonging to the “Commonwealth of nations” can take part.
What’s the Commonwealth of Nations?
The Commonwealth of Nations is a collective of 54 nations that were once under the rule of the British empire.
Currently, the commonwealth games have 72 participating teams.
Even though the Commonwealth of Nations has only 54 members, there are 72 teams – this is because the members include the countries and their territories. For instance, the United Kingdom sends four different teams from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Who founded the commonwealth games?
So, this is what happened..
In 1891, a person named John Astley Cooper came up with the idea of having a sporting competition that would bring together the members of the British Empire. He wrote about this idea in many journals etc.
After a few years, committees were formed in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to take this idea forward. The story goes that this is what inspired a person named Pierre de Coubertin – a French educator and the founder of the International Olympic Committee – to start the Olympic Games movement.
Then, in 1911, an Inter-Empire Championship was held when celebrations for one of Britain’s King coronation – George V – were going on. Teams from Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom participated in this event which had athletics, boxing, swimming and wrestling.
Canada won the championships and was presented with a silver cup.
In 1930, a Canadian journalist named Melville Marks Robinson started to push for having, what was then called, the first British Empire Games in a Canadian City called Hamilton.
And that’s really how it all began.
The first Games…
The first ever commonwealth games were held in Hamilton, Canada as the “British Empire Games ‘. The name was later changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954 and the British Commonwealth Games in 1970. The current name was adopted in 1978.
Fact check—Commonwealth games are the first fully inclusive international multi-sport event
Along with holding para-sports, Commonwealth Games also allow an athlete with a disability to be included as full members of their national teams. They are not called friendly games for no reason.
70 plus years of commonwealth history explained
The Commonwealth Games begin each year with The Queen’s Baton Relay. The baton is a stick that’s passed on to the successive runners. It carries a message from the head of the Commonwealth or the head of the royal family, currently Queen Elizabeth II.
After the baton has been relayed through all the 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth, covering 140,000 kilometres, it is handed back to the queen or her representative to announce the beginning of the Commonwealth Games.
This year’s baton relay began on 7 October 2021. The 294-day journey concluded at the Opening Ceremony at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on 28 July 2022
India hosted the most expensive commonwealth games ever
- India hosted its first-ever Commonwealth Games in 2010 at the nation’s capital, New Delhi.
- The game consisted of 21 sports and 272 events and saw massive participation of 6,081 athletes but it cost a total of 11 billion dollars!
- These games also witnessed the greatest performance by Indian athletes. They achieved their best performance ever among all commonwealth games and finished second overall.
About the ongoing 2022 Commonwealth Games at Birmingham, England
The 2022 commonwealth games are being hosted in Birmingham, England from 28 July 2022 to 8 August 2022.
The 11-day sports event with 286 sessions is going to witness five additional sports including road cycling, triathlon, table tennis, wrestling and judo, which was previously in the optional category.
This year’s event is reported to accommodate eight more para-sports, making the 2022 Birmingham games the largest para-sports in the history of commonwealth games.
Initially, the 2022 games were supposed to be held in Durban, Africa but they withdrew because of financial constraints The last commonwealth games were held in Gold Coast 2018.
The queen did not attend this year
The royal palace announced that instead of the Queen, her son Prince Charles would represent her.
Some facts to know
- Commonwealth includes some games that are not played in the Olympics
The commonwealth games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), and they’ve been very consistent in adding more games to the event. Some games like lawn bowls, netball, cricket and squash that are not even played in the largest sporting event — the Olympics – have been included in the commonwealth games.
- The games were cancelled once, during World War II
As you know, Commonwealth Games are a Quadrennial event and have managed to be held even after COVID, they had to be cancelled once – because of World War II that broke out in 1942 and 1946.
- The ‘Friendly games’ were a single sports competition for a long while.
Initially, the commonwealth only allowed one-on-one sports competitions like badminton, bowling, etc. The team games were allowed much later in 1998.
- Only six countries have attended every game since 1930.
The Games have been hosted by a total of 22 countries over the last 70 years and have 54 different participant countries. However, Australia and Canada have hosted the maximum events and these are among the only countries that have attended all the games along with England, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales.