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The Commonwealth Games

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The very first British Empire Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. An event such as this, bringing together all the nations of the British Empire in a sporting event had been talked about for years, but it was Bobby Robson, a major influence within Canadian athletics of the time, who finally set the ball rolling. 400 athletes from 11 countries participated in the 1930 event, which has taken place every four years since then (with exceptions for the war years of 1942 and 1946).

One source of inspiration for the Commonwealth Games could have been the Reverend Astley Cooper. He suggested a 'Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival... every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire' in both Greater Britain and The Times in 1891.

The holding of the first recorded Games between Empire athletes coincided with the celebrations in connection with the Coronation of His Majesty King George V in 1911, and was known as the 'Festival of Empire'.

One of the features of the festival was an inter-Empire Sports meeting. Invitations were sent to Australia, Canada and South Africa, to compete with the athletes of Great Britain to decide Empire supremacy. The program consisted of track and field athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming events, and a trophy in the form of a silver cup, 2ft 6in high and weighing 340oz, the gift of Lord Lonsdale, was presented to the winning country, which was Canada.

No further development took place until 1928, when the Olympic Games were in progress in Amsterdam. The splendid feelings of friendliness between the Empire athletes at that Olympiad strengthened the ideas for the revival of Empire meetings. In view of Canada's victory in 1911, it was deemed appropriate that Hamilton, Canada should host the first games in 1930. When the 1934 games were completed, Canada, the winner of the Lonsdale Trophy at the Festival of the Empire in 1911, turned over the cup to the British Empire Association. This was melted down and made into silver replicas presented to the 11 countries who formed the original games.

In 1954 the name of the Games was changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and in 1966 became the British Commonwealth Games. Since 1978 the 'British' has been dropped, leaving us with the Commonwealth Games.

One unique aspect of the Games is that it is one of the only major international sporting events where each country taking part has the same language - English - as an official national language, meaning everyone can talk to everyone else. This has lead to the Games being dubbed 'The Friendly Games'. The Games are also seen as 'friendly' as they are mostly staffed by trained volunteers, who are often just as excited to be there as the athletes and spectators.

The Commonwealth Games Federation

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the organisation in charge of the Commonwealth Games. They themselves state on their website that at the heart of the CGF's work is the will to dynamically promote and celebrate a unique, friendly, world class Games. The three core values of the CGF are Humanity, Equality and Destiny, and through these values they try to inspire and unite all the members of the Commonwealth, through the Games. The patron of the CGF is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and their president is HRH The Earl of Wessex. The other members of the CGF are taken from throughout the Commonwealth.

Disabled Athletes

Of course, having a disability is no barrier to participating in the Games. From 1962-1974, the British Commonwealth Paraplegic Games were held in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games. In the 2002 Games in Manchester, Elite Athletes with a Disability (EAD) competed alongside able-bodied athletes (albeit in their own events) with their medals counting towards the final medal tally for their country.

Commonwealth Countries

The Commonwealth Countries are those that have strong connections to the Britain, mostly those who were once part of the British Empire. The British head of state is the head of the Commonwealth, and a few Commonwealth Countries still see the British head of state as their head of state. The nations eligible to take part in the Commonwealth Games has varied over time, and the list has expanded from the original 11 participants to the following:

NigeriaSeychellesSierra LeoneSouth AfricaSwaziland
UgandaUnited Republic of TanzaniaZambiaZimbabwe 
BelizeBermudaCanadaFalkland IslandsGuyana
St Helena    
PakistanSingaporeSri Lanka  
AnguillaAntigua and BarbudaBahamasBritish Virgin IslandsCayman Islands
DominicaGrenadaJamaicaMontserratSt Kitts and Nevis
St LuciaSt Vincent and the GrenadinesTrinidad and TobagoTurks and Cacos 
CyprusEnglandGibraltarGuernseyIsle of Man
JerseyMaltaNorthern IrelandScotlandWales
AustraliaCook IslandsFijiKiribatiNauru
New ZealandNiueNorfolk IslandsPapua New GuineaSamoa
Solomon IslandsTongaTuvaluVanuatu 

The Events

The events included in the Games have changed over time, however the following events have all been included at some time or another:

DivingFencingGymnasticsHockeyJudoLawn Bowls
NetballRowingRugby 7'sShootingSquashSwimming
Table TennisTenpin BowlingTriathlonWaterpoloWeightliftingWrestling

The Games

1930 - Hamilton, Canada

The first occurrence of the Games was quite basic - the 400 athletes from 11 countries competed in just six sports. The athletes' 'village' was a school next to the stadium, and they slept 24 to a classroom. The only events open to women were swimming and diving.

1934 - London, England

This Games was scheduled to take place in South Africa, but was moved in order to avoid the implications that the apartheid policy in South Africa would have on the athletes and officials. This time 500 athletes from 16 nations competed in six events, and for the first time women were allowed to compete in those athletics events which were not thought 'too exhaustive'.

1938 - Sydney, Australia

466 athletes and 43 officials from 15 countries took part in the Sydney Games, which offered seven sports.

1950 - Auckland, New Zealand

Nine sports featured at these Games, with 495 male and 95 female athletes participating. These games showed that the war hadn't dampened the spirit of the Commonwealth.

1954 - Vancouver, Canada

The Games saw a huge increase in participants, with 24 nations sending nearly 700 athletes. Vancouver saw Roger Bannister and John Landy break the four-minute-mile barrier.

1958 - Cardiff, Wales

35 nations sent 1,130 athletes to Cardiff, making this Games the biggest sporting event ever held in Wales. This would be South Africa's last appearance in the Games until 1994, due to apartheid.

1962 - Perth, Australia

The athletes had to battle through freak temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, yet the Games were still successful.

1966 - Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston hosted the first Games since the Empire officially ended, and despite worries that the Jamaican infrastructure wouldn't cope, the Games were still going from strength to strength.

1970 - Edinburgh, Scotland

42 nations sent 1,750 athletes to a Games that was the first to use metric distances and electronic photo-finish technology. It was also Queen Elizabeth II's first Games as Head of the Commonwealth.

1974 - Christchurch, New Zealand

The security of everyone at the event was the most important concern at these Games, due to the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games two years previously. However, the Games proceeded without a hitch and 22 countries managed to leave the Games with a medal.

1978 - Edmonton, Canada

46 countries and 1,405 athletes took part, and there were ten sports on offer. These Games were the first to be called the Commonwealth Games.

1982 - Brisbane, Australia

Australia headed the medal table in their home Games, which consisted of 1,583 athletes and nine sports, and England and Scotland had to share the men's 200m gold as it was impossible to separate Mike McFarlane and Allan Wells at the finishing post.

1986 - Edinburgh, Scotland

Dubbed 'the Boycott Games', many nations didn't even turn up to the Games in Scotland, due to a protest about apartheid in sport. 26 countries and 1,662 athletes did attend, and competed in ten sports.

1990 - Auckland, New Zealand

A new record of 54 nations attended the Games, with 29 of them leaving with medals. Australia again headed the medal table, and there were ten sports on offer.

1994 - Victoria, Canada

Following the ending of apartheid, South Africa returned to the Games this year. 2,450 athletes from 63 nations participated in ten sports.

1998 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was the Games' first visit to Asia, where 5,250 athletes and officials enjoyed 15 sports. 70 nations took part, and due to team sports being introduced for the first time there were large TV audiences worldwide.

2002 - Manchester, England

Manchester coped well with the biggest multi-sport event to take place in Great Britain since the 1940s. 72 nations sent athletes who competed in 14 individual and three team sports.

2006 - Melbourne, Australia

There will be 17 sports on offer in Melbourne.

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