Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Commonwealth Games

The 20th Commonwealth Games opened in Glasgow today, with what I thought was a pretty awesome opening ceremony. It’s a pity my American friends and family are unlikely to know about the Games, because they are what the Olympics should be.

The Commonwealth Games were “known as the British Empire Games from 1930–1950, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954–1966, and British Commonwealth Games from 1970–1974,” when the current name was adopted. The Games are held every four years, and were skipped only twice, both times for World War 2 (1942 and 1946)

Fifty-four nations are members of The Commonwealth, but 71 teams participate. That’s because dependencies of countries (like the Isle of Man, Jersey, etc.) participate under their own flags, as do the four Home Nations of the United Kingdom. Because the Commonwealth Games are less nationalistic than the Olympics, and because the Commonwealth is often referred to as a family, the Games are sometimes called “The Friendly Games”.

New Zealand is one of only six Commonwealth nations to have participated in all Commonwealth games. The other five are: Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, and Wales. New Zealand also hosted the games three times: 1950 and 1990 in Auckland, and 1974 in Christchurch. This means that New Zealand is tied for third place with Scotland among countries that hosted the games multiple times. First is Australia with five and Canada is second with four.

Auckland and Edinburgh are the only two cities that have hosted the Games twice. The 1950 Games in Auckland were the first after the interruption of World War 2.

The Games are unique in that in addition to sporting events found in the Olympic Summer Games, there are also games typically played in Commonwealth countries, such as bowls (also known as lawn bowls) and netball. Rugby Sevens is also an event; while rugby is played in many non-Commonwealth nations (like France, for example), it’s a particular passion among Commonwealth Countries. Curiously, there’s no version of cricket played at the Games.

Another unique aspect of the Games is that athletes with disabilities are included in their national teams, and their events are held alongside events for athletes without disabilities. So, the medal count includes all athletes. The Olympics, of course, host separate games for athletes with disabilities.

Add it all up, and the Commonwealth Games’ uniquely collegial atmosphere, its inclusiveness, and its inclusion of sports that don’t get much international attention, and these Games are unique and valuable. In fact, I prefer them to the Olympics. I just wish more Americans knew about them.


rogerogreen said...

Americans don't know anything that doesn't involve them personally.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

That's a common complaint about Americans for a number of things, of course, not just sport. When the FIFA World Cup ended, some journalist Tweeted something like, "Thanks for the good times, FIFA. Now the US will go back to pretending soccer doesn't exist." Truth.