Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Commonwealth Games

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London, England


First event

Louise Martin

Commonwealth Games


The Commonwealth Games (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) is an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and, with the exception of 1942 and 1946, which were cancelled due to World War II, has taken place every four years since then.


The games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which also controls the sporting programme and selects the host cities. A host city is selected for each edition. 18 cities in seven countries have hosted the event. Apart from many Olympic sports, the games also include some sports that are played predominantly in Commonwealth countries, such as lawn bowls and netball.

Although there are 53 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, 70 teams participate in the Commonwealth Games, as a number of dependent territories compete under their own flags. The four Home Nations of the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—also send separate teams. Only six countries have attended every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. Australia has been the highest achieving team for twelve games, England for seven, and Canada for one.

History of the Games

A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by John Astley Cooper in 1891, when he wrote an article in The Times suggesting a "Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years as a means of increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire". The John Astley Cooper Committees worldwide (e.g. Australia) helped Pierre de Coubertin to get his international Olympic Games off the ground. In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held at The Crystal Palace in London to celebrate the coronation of George V. As part of the Festival of the Empire, an Inter-Empire Championships was held in which teams from Australasia, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom competed in athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming events.

The Empire Games

In 1928, Melville Marks Robinson of Canada was asked to organise the first British Empire Games; these were held in 1930, in Hamilton, Ontario. Eleven national teams and four hundred competitors took part in six sports. Women competed in the swimming events only. The opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics took place at Civic Stadium.

The 1934 Games had originally been awarded to Johannesburg, but were given to London instead because of the potential for prejudiced treatment of black and Asian athletes in South Africa. Seventeen national teams took part, including the Irish Free State (the only Games in which they did take part).

Once again, only six sports were featured in these particular Games. Athletics (which included women's events for the first time) took place at White City and three sports (boxing, wrestling, and aquatics – incorporating both swimming and diving) took place at Wembley, at the well established venue of the Empire Pool in Wembley Park, which later became Wembley Arena.

The Empire Games flag was donated in 1931 by the British Empire Games Association of Canada. The year and location of subsequent games were added until the 1950 games. The name of the event was then changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the flag was retired as a result.

Editions of the Games

The first edition of the event was the 1930 British Empire Games in which 11 nations participated. The quadrennial schedule of the games was interrupted by the Second World War and the 1942 Games (set to be held in Montreal) and the 1946 Games were abandoned. The games were revived in 1950 and underwent a name change four years later with the first British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954. Over 1,000 athletes participated in the 1958 Games as over thirty teams took part for the first time.

The 1978 Games in Edmonton marked a new high as almost 1,500 athletes from 46 countries took part. They were boycotted by Nigeria, in protest of New Zealand's sporting contacts with apartheid-era South Africa, as well as by Uganda, in protest of alleged Canadian hostility towards the government of Idi Amin. Participation at the 1986 Games was affected by a boycott by 32 African, Asian and Caribbean nations in protest of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's refusal to condemn sporting contacts of Apartheid era South Africa in 1985, but the Games rebounded and continued to grow thereafter. The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia saw the sporting programme grow from 10 to 15 sports as team sports were allowed for the first time. Participation also reached new levels as over 3500 athletes represented 70 teams at the event. At the Games in Melbourne in 2006, over 4000 athletes took part in sporting competitions.

The three nations to have hosted the games the most times are Australia (5), Canada (4) and New Zealand (3). Furthermore, six editions have taken place in the countries within the United Kingdom (Scotland 3, England 2 and Wales 1), twice in Asia (Malaysia 1 and India 1) and once in the Caribbean (Jamaica 1). Two cities have held the games on multiple occasions: Auckland (1950 and 1990), and Edinburgh (1970, 1986 and some events in 2014).

The first Commonwealth Paraplegic Games were held alongside the Commonwealth Games from 1962 to 1974. Athletes with a disability were then first included in exhibition events at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and, at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, they were included as full members of their national teams, making them the first fully inclusive international multi-sport games. This meant that results were included in the medal count.


1Includes 3 team sports 2Includes 4 team sports 3Includes 5 team sports

  • Record (*)
  • Notes

    * The 1911 Inter-Empire Championships held in London is seen as a precursor to the modern Commonwealth Games, but is not normally considered an official edition of the Games themselves.

    **The United Kingdom competes as its separate Home Nations, Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies and has held the games 6 times, 7 including the precursor 1911 Inter-Empire Championships in London.


    The Commonwealth Games always starts with a grand opening ceremony. Various cultural and military shows are performed during the ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. The flag of the Commonwealth Games Federation, flag of the last hosting nation and the current hosting nation are hoisted during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The 2010 Commonwealth Games at Delhi, India was considered to have the most grand opening ceremony in the history of any Commonwealth Games and it was highly compared with the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games at Beijing, China. The cost of the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games was around $77 million which was the second costliest opening ceremony of any international sporting event in the world after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The 70 Commonwealth nations are called continent wise to have the athletes parade at the stadium and the last hosting nation of the games enters the first. The president or the head of the hosting nation declares the opening of the games, however the opening of the 2002, 2006 and 2014 Commonwealth Games were declared by Queen Elizabeth II.


    The closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games takes place after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes who enter together, without any national distinction. The president of the organizing committee and the CGF president make their closing speeches and the Games are officially closed. The David Dickson award for the best performance in the Commonwealth Games is presented to one athlete. The CGF president also speaks about the conduct of the games. The mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers the CGF flag to the president of the CGF, who then passes it on to the mayor of the city hosting the next Commonwealth Games. The next host nation then also briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theater representative of its culture. Many great artists and singers had performed at the ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games. For example: Kylie Minogue was the link between 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Commonwealth Games and sang at the 2014 games closing.

    Approved sports

    There are a total of 22 sports (with three multi-disciplinary sports) and a further seven para-sports which are approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation. They are categorised into three types. Core sports must be included on each programme. A number of optional sports may be picked by the host nation, which may include some team sports such as basketball. Recognised sports are sports which have been approved by the CGF but which are deemed to need expansion; host nations may not pick these sports for their programme until the CGF's requirements are fulfilled.


    Only six teams have attended every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Australia has been the highest scoring team for twelve games, England for seven and Canada for one.

    1. ^ Aden later joined South Arabia in 1963 and departed the Commonwealth in 1968.
    2. ^ Anguilla was completely separated from Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla in 1980 and remaining Saint Kitts and Nevis became independent from the United Kingdom in 1983.
    3. ^ British Guiana was renamed Guyana in 1966.
    4. ^ British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1973.
    5. ^ Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972.
    6. ^ Fiji was re-suspended from the Commonwealth and Games in 2009. Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth was lifted in time for the 2014 Games following democratic elections in March, 2014.
    7. ^ Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2013.
    8. ^ Gold Coast (British colony) was renamed Ghana in 1957.
    9. ^ Including neighbouring Islands.
    10. ^ Hong Kong was never a Commonwealth member but was a territory of a Commonwealth country; it ceased to be in the Commonwealth when the territory was handed over to China in 1997.
    11. ^ Ireland was represented as a team from the whole of the island in 1930, and from both parts, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1934. The Irish Free State was renamed Ireland in 1937 (but also known by its name in Irish Éire), did not participate in the 1938 Games, and was formally excluded from the Commonwealth when it declared that it was a Republic on 18 April 1949.
    12. ^ Contemporary illustrations show Green Flag used for the Irish team.
    13. ^ Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe competed in 1962 as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
    14. ^ Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore federated as Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965.
    15. ^ Maldives withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2016.
    16. ^ Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.
    17. ^ The Ulster Banner was the flag of the former Government of Northern Ireland only between 1953 and 1972, but the flag has been regarded as flag of Northern Ireland since 1924 among unionists and loyalists.The Ulster Banner is the sporting flag of Northern Ireland in other events as the FIFA World Cup and in the FIVB Volleyball World Championship.
    18. ^ Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia federated with Nyasaland in 1953 as Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which dissolved at the end of 1963.
    19. ^ Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia competed separately in 1954 and 1958 while both were part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
    20. ^ Under the name of "Saint Helena" in the Commonwealth Games. Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha were dependencies of Saint Helena, so the territory was officially called "Saint Helena and Dependencies" until 2009. Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha became equal parts of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in 2009.
    21. ^ Western Samoa was renamed Samoa in 1997.
    22. ^ Zanzibar and Tanganyika federated to form Tanzania in 1964.
    23. ^ Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003.

    Commonwealth nations/dependencies/disputed territories yet to send teams

    Very few Commonwealth dependencies and nations have yet to take part:

  • Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, former dependencies of Saint Helena and current parts of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, have never formed their own teams independent from the Saint Helena team.
  • Other states, territories and territorial autonomies with native populations within the Commonwealth that may be eligible include Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (territories of Australia), Nevis (a federal entity of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis), Rodrigues (outer islands of Mauritius), and Zanzibar (a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania).
  • Cornwall, represented by the Cornwall Commonwealth Games Association (CCGA), sent a bid for participation in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, however, their application was rejected by the CGF, who stated that the constitutional status of Cornwall was not an issue that should be resolved through this medium. However, in 2010, the CCGA sought to launch a legal challenge to the decision of the CGF, stating that the Cornish bid of 2006 fulfilled the entire criterion of the CGF, and by rejecting the bid, the CGF had violated their own code, failing to follow their own criteria for participation. The Cornwall team will therefore seek competition in the 2014 games.
  • The British Indian Ocean Territory currently has no permanent population although there is a sizeable population who were born in the BIOT but currently live in Mauritius and the United Kingdom and so would be eligible to compete on birth criteria.
  • Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has made applications to the CGF to send teams.
  • It is also conceivable that any future members of the Commonwealth such as applicants (for example South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen) may participate in future games. The Colony of Aden and Federation of South Arabia, precursors to modern Yemen, participated before in 1962 and in 1966. Sudan was an Anglo-Egyptian protectorate until independence in 1956.
  • The Pitcairn Islands' tiny population (currently 50 to 60 people) would appear to prevent this British overseas territory from competing.
  • Tokelau was expected to take part in the 2010 Games in Delhi but did not do so.
  • The lack of a permanent population would seem to prevent the British overseas territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and British Antarctic Territory, the New Zealand territory of Ross Dependency and the Australian external territories of Australian Antarctic Territory, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands and Heard Island and McDonald Islands from competing.
  • Notable competitors

    Lawn bowler Willie Wood from Scotland was the first competitor to have competed in seven Commonwealth Games, from 1974 to 2002, a record equalled in 2014 by Isle of Man cyclist Andrew Roche. Also, Greg Yelavich, a sports shooter from New Zealand, has won 12 medals in seven games from 1986 to 2010.

    Nauruan weightlifter Marcus Stephen won twelve medals at the Games between 1990 and 2002, of which seven gold, and was elected President of Nauru in 2007. His performance has helped place Nauru (the smallest independent state in the Commonwealth, at 21 km2 and with a population of fewer than 9,400 in 2011) in nineteenth place on the all-time Commonwealth Games medal table.


    Commonwealth Games Wikipedia