The 1974 British Commonwealth Games were held in Christchurch, New Zealand from 24 January to 2 February 1974. The bid vote was held in Edinburgh at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games. The Games were officially named "the friendly games". There were 1,276 competitors and 372 officials, according to the official history, and public attendance was excellent. The main venue was the QEII Park, purpose built for this event. The Athletics Stadium and fully covered Olympic standard pool, diving tank, and practice pools were all on the one site. The theme song was "Join Together", sung by Steve Allen. QEII Park was severely damaged beyond repair by the devastating earthquake that destroyed parts of the city on 22 February 2011.
38 teams were represented at the 1974 Games.
(Teams competing for the first time are shown in bold).
The Games were the first large international athletic event after the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Athletes Village, the Student accommodation of the University of Canterbury, was temporarily fenced in and guarded for the duration of the games. Only official vehicles and persons were allowed into sensitive areas around the venues.
The logo was the second (after Edinburgh) to be protected and trademarked, and set a design benchmark which was echoed in the logos of the next five games.
In recent years the logo has been regarded as one of New Zealand's iconic symbols, being reproduced on clothing and elsewhere.
The Games were also an important milestone in New Zealand television, marking the introduction of colour television. However, due to the NZBC's limited colour facilities, only athletics, swimming, and boxing could be broadcast in colour.
Meanwhile, paralleling the Television coverage, the National Film Unit produced Games '74, a fine feature-length documentary of the Christchurch games (and the many events) in full colour. This has since been restored and is available on DVD.
The Games were the last time that the entire immediate British Royal Family (Elizabeth II, her husband and children) visited New Zealand as a group. The Royal Yacht Britannia was the royal residence during the games.
The opening ceremony was held in the mid afternoon, with Prince Philip as the attending royal. A fanfare announced the guard of honour by the New Zealand Defence Forces, inspected by Prince Philip. This was followed by the raising of flags of the past, present, and future hosts. God Save the Queen was sung. The field was then invaded by 2500 school children in red, white and blue rain slicks all forming in the centre to create the NZ74 symbol. A Māori concert group then performed action songs and a haka, before the teams march past. The athletes then took the oath and Sylvia Potts, the runner who fell mere meters from a gold medal finish in the 1970 Commonwealth Games, entered the stadium with the Queen's Baton. It was presented to Prince Philip who read the message from the Queen declaring the 1974 Christchurch 10th British Commonwealth Games open. The Commonwealth flag was then marched in and hauled up with a 21 gun salute.
While the opening ceremony was a regimented and very formal affair, the late afternoon closing ceremony was anything but. This set a precedent for other closing ceremonies since then. With the formalities out of the way, the handing over of the flag to representatives of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the athletes broke ranks and ran amok, much to the delight of the packed stadium and the Queen herself. A flypast of the then Red Checkers RNZAF display team brought the ceremony to a close as the Queen and Prince Philip did a lap of honour around the stadium and departed.
The youngest competitor at the games was New Zealander Rebecca Perrott, 12½; swimming for Fiji at the games, as her father was Registrar at the University of the South Pacific.
Christchurch was (and still is) the smallest city to host the modern televised Commonwealth Games. This was the first games that tried using the "Olympic" look with a standard colour scheme for facilities, passes, flags, stationary, and above all uniforms (which wearers only borrowed, but could buy outright as a memento thus helping keep costs down).
This was also the first time that a city had asked the Games Federation to allow commercial advertising. This was voted down as the Federation feared that advertising by big corporations would remove focus away from the amateur ethos of the Games. As no commercial hoardings were allowed, Christchurch got around this with the use of "sponsorship", one example being General Motors providing a lease fleet of Holden HQ Kingswood sedans that would be sold off after the games. Air New Zealand allowed large NZ74 symbols to be placed on the fuselage sides of the airline's brand new McDonnell Douglas DC-10s, giving free advertising around the world. This in itself set a trend since with airlines vying to be "official airline" of a particular event.
Although the Games themselves were a success, making a then sizeable profit of $500,000, the "sponsorship" was nowhere near enough. The City of Christchurch was left with a financial facilities management debt (QEII Park) of what would be in today's (2008) amount of NZ$100million. This deterred the city from hosting major events until 1990 when the government stepped in with lotteries funding to clear the remaining debt. By then, Auckland's 1990 games were fully commercialised.* = First medal in the British Commonwealth Games.