The Commonwealth Games is currently taking place in Glasgow. If you’re not from a Commonwealth nation, you’d be forgiven for not having the first idea what it is or why it’s important (in fact, even if you’re from a Commonwealth nation, you might be wondering why it’s important).
The Commonwealth is what’s left over from the British Empire, which at one point totalled about a third if the world. Now it’s an international network, slightly less influential than the European Union but a bit more useful than the Women’s Institute. Anyway, every four years the Commonwealth gets together to host a games event. And I love it.
The Friendly Games
The games is known as the Friendly Games and it is, essentially, the school sports day of international sporting events. It’s a big day out for those who never get a moment to shine, but just another competition for the big kids that win everything.
That’s not to belittle it. The joy of multi sport events like this is discovering new stars, seeing sports that rarely get airtime and basking in the glory of the underdog. It’s ace!
So far I’ve become addicted to lawn bowls, engrossed by the rugby 7s and hooked on the triathlon relay. I keep checking the schedule for the egg and spoon race but haven’t found it yet. There’s still about a week left so see what you can catch.
In most international events, people from the UK compete as Team GB under the Union Flag. For the Commonwealths, the nations split into the smaller constituent parts. So England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all the smaller islands get to have their moment in the sun. Teams mates race against each other, there’s a chance get patriotic and break some rarely competed for records.
The Commonwealth Games doesn’t have a separate para event, it puts the para events in with the main games, which is a great idea. So far the undoubted star of the entire games has been a para competitor, Erraid Davies, who took a bronze medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke at the ripe old age of… 13!
Crazy Stuff Happens
So far, a bunch of Sri Lankan cyclists have been stopped for training on the local motorways and causing chaos, Sir Chris Hoy, a proud Scot and the UK’s most decorated Olympian, has been refused entry into the velodrome for the cycling events, despite it being named after him
— Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) July 24, 2014
A bloke who was a drinker and smoker weighing in at over 16 stone (101kg) seven years ago was running in the marathon, the Queen gave a Malaysian prince as snooty look for not being able to open the baton to open the games and a small dog did a turd live on TV during the opening ceremony. Brilliant!
Possibly the most enjoyable thing about the Commonwealth games is the absence of the USA. It’s nice watching world records broken, but US athletes are painful to listen to in their post-event interviews. So far, the coverage has been refreshingly free of “I’d like to thank God and my family…” as the opening line to every interview.
There is something quaintly old fashioned about the Commonwealth Games. It evokes memories of a bygone era, without, amazingly, dragging up the many negatives of the old colonial regime. It might be lacking big names this time round, it might not be the Olympics and the rest of the world really doesn’t care, but I’m a fan and I’ll keep watching this year and every four years. You should too.