Commonwealth Games facts for kids
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 most recent Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014.
The games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which also controls the sporting programme and selects the host cities. The games movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs), and organising committees for each specific Commonwealth Games. There are several rituals and symbols, such as the Commonwealth Games flag and Queen's Baton, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Over 5,000 athletes compete at the Commonwealth Games in more than 15 different sports and more than 250 events. The first, second, and third-place finishers in each event receive Commonwealth Games medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively. 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 52 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.
Nine nations have hosted the Commonwealth Games. 18 cities in seven countries have hosted the event. Australia has hosted four Commonwealth Games (1938, 1962, 1982, 2006) and will host for the fifth time in 2018. Canada has hosted four Commonwealth Games (1930, 1954, 1978, 1994). Two cities have hosted Commonwealth Games more than one time: Auckland (1950, 1990) and Edinburgh (1970, 1986).
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
- British Empire Games
- British Empire and Commonwealth Games
- British Commonwealth Games
- Commonwealth Games
- During the 20th century
- During the 21st century
- Inclusion of para-sports
- Winter Games
- Youth Games
- Commonwealth Games Federation
- Related pages
- Images for kids
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 following cities have hosted the Commonwealth Games, and their predecessors
British Empire Games
- 1930 British Empire Games - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
- 1934 British Empire Games - London, England
- 1938 British Empire Games - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- 1950 British Empire Games - Auckland, New Zealand
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
- 1954 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- 1958 - Cardiff, Wales
- 1962 - Perth, Australia
- 1966 - Kingston, Jamaica
British Commonwealth Games
- 1978 - Edmonton, Canada
- 1982 - Brisbane, Australia
- 1986 - Edinburgh, Scotland
- 1990 - Auckland, New Zealand
- 1994 - Victoria, Canada
- 1998 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 2002 - Manchester, England
- 2006 - Melbourne, Australia
- 2010 - Delhi, India
- 2014 - Glasgow, Scotland
- 2018 - Gold Coast, Australia
During the 20th century
British Empire Games
The 1930 British Empire Games were the first of what later become known as the Commonwealth Games, and were held in Hamilton, in the province of Ontario in Canada from August 16–23, 1930. In 1928, Melville Marks Robinson of Canada was asked to organise the first British Empire Games. Eleven countries sent a total of 400 athletes to the Hamilton Games. The opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics took place at Civic Stadium. Women competed in only the swimming events. The participant nations were Australia, Bermuda, British Guyana, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. The Hamilton Games featured six sports: athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving and wrestling and ran at a cost of $97,973.
The 1934 British Empire Games were the second of what is now known as the Commonwealth Games, held in London, England. The host city was London, with the main venue at Wembley Park, although the track cycling events were in Manchester. 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) and new participants Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Southern Rhodesia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The 1938 British Empire Games was the third British Empire Games, which were held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. They were timed to coincide with Sydney's sesqui-centenary (150 years since the foundation of British settlement in Australia). Held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, the III Games opening ceremony took place at the famed Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 40,000 spectators. Fifteen nations participated down under at the Sydney Games involving a total of 464 athletes and 43 officials. Fiji and Ceylon made their debuts. Seven sports were featured in the Sydney Games – athletics, boxing, cycling, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving and wrestling.
The 1950 British Empire Games was the fourth edition and was held in Auckland, New Zealand after a 12-year gap from the 3rd edition of the games. The fourth games were originally awarded to Montreal, Canada and were to be held in 1942 but were cancelled due to World War II. The opening ceremony at Eden Park was attended by 40,000 spectators, whilst nearly 250,000 people attended the Auckland Games. Twelve countries sent a total of 590 athletes to Auckland. Malaya and Nigeria made their first appearances.
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games which were fifth edition, were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. These were the first games since the name change from British Empire Games took effect in 1952. The 5th edition of the Games placed Vancouver on a world stage and featured memorable sporting moments as well as outstanding entertainment, technical innovation and cultural events. The ‘Miracle Mile’, as it became known, saw both the gold medallist, Roger Bannister of England and silver medallist John Landy of Australia, run sub-four minute races in an event that was televised live across the world for the first time. Northern Rhodesia and Pakistan made their debuts and both performed well, winning eight and six medals respectively.
The 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Cardiff, Wales The sixth edition of the games marked the largest sporting event ever held in Wales and it was the smallest country ever to host a British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Cardiff had to wait 12 years longer than originally scheduled to become host of the Games, as the 1946 event was cancelled because of World War II. The Cardiff Games introduced the Queen's Baton Relay, which has been conducted as a prelude to every British Empire and Commonwealth Games ever since. Thirty-five nations sent a total of 1,122 athletes and 228 officials to the Cardiff Games and 23 countries and dependencies won medals, including for the first time, Singapore, Ghana, Kenya and the Isle of Man.
The 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Thirty-five countries sent a total of 863 athletes and 178 officials to Perth. Jersey was amongst the medal winners for the first time, whilst British Honduras, Dominica, Papua and New Guinea and St Lucia all made their inaugural Games appearances. Aden also competed by special invitation. Sarawak, North Borneo and Malaya competed for the last time before taking part in 1966 under the Malaysian flag. In addition, Rhodesia and Nyasaland competed in the Games as an entity for the first and only time.
The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Kingston, Jamaica. This was the first time that the Games had been held outside the so-called White Dominions. Thirty-four nations (including South Arabia) competed in the Kingston Games sending a total of 1,316 athletes and officials.
British Commonwealth Games
The 1970 British Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was the first time the name British Commonwealth Games was adopted, the first time metric units rather than imperial units were used in events, the first time the games were held in Scotland and also the first time that HM Queen Elizabeth II attended in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth.
The 1974 British Commonwealth Games were held in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Games were officially named "the friendly games". Following the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the tenth games at Christchurch was the first multi-sport event to place the safety of participants and spectators as its uppermost requirement. Security guards surrounded the athlete’s village and there was an exceptionally high-profile police presence. Only 22 countries succeeded in winning medals from the total haul of 374 medals on offer, but first time winners included Western Samoa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
The 1978 Commonwealth Games were held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. These games was the first to bear the current day name of the Commonwealth Games and also 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.
The 1982 Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Forty-six nations participated in the Brisbane Games with a new record total of 1,583 athletes and 571 officials. As hosts, Australia headed the medal table leading the way ahead of England, Canada, Scotland and New Zealand respectively. Zimbabwe made its first appearance at the Games, having earlier competed as Southern Rhodesia and as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
The 1986 Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland and were the second Games to be held in Edinburgh. 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. Twenty-six nations did attend the second Edinburgh Games and sent a total of 1,662 athletes and 461 officials.
The 1990 Commonwealth Games were held in Auckland, New Zealand. It was the fourteenth Commonwealth Games, the third to be hosted by New Zealand and Auckland’s second. A new record of 55 nations participated in the second Auckland Games sending 2,826 athletes and officials. Pakistan returned to the Commonwealth in 1989 after withdrawing in 1972, and competed in the 1990 Games after an absence of twenty years.
The 1994 Commonwealth Games were held in Victoria, in the province of British Columbia in Canada for the fourth time. The games marked South Africa's return to the Commonwealth Games following the apartheid era, and over 30 years since the country last competed in the Games in 1958. Namibia made its Games debut. It was also Hong Kong's last appearance at the games before the transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China. Sixty-three nations sent 2,557 athletes and 914 officials.
The 1998 Commonwealth Games were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For the first time in its 68-year history, the Commonwealth Games were held in Asia. The sixteenth games were also the first Games to feature team sports - an overwhelming success that added large numbers to both participant and TV audience numbers. A new record of 70 countries sent a total of 5,065 athletes and officials to the Kuala Lumpur Games. The top five countries in the medal standing were Australia, England, Canada, Malaysia and South Africa. Nauru also achieved an impressive haul of three gold medals. Cameroon, Mozambique and Kiribati debuted.
During the 21st century
The 2002 Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, England. The 2002 Games were to be hosted in England to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth. In terms of sports and events, the 2002 Games were until the 2010 edition the largest Commonwealth Games in history featuring 281 events across 17 sports. The final medal tally was led by Australia, followed by host England and Canada. The 2002 Commonwealth Games set a new benchmark for hosting the Commonwealth Games and for cities wishing to bid for them with a heavy emphasis on legacy.
The 2006 Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, Australia. The only difference between the 2006 games and the 2002 games was the absence of Zimbabwe, which withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations. For the first time in the history of the Games the Queen's Baton visited every single Commonwealth nation and territory taking part in the Games, a journey of 180,000 km (112,500 miles). Over 4000 athletes took part in the sporting competitions. The final medal tally was led by the host Australia, followed by England and Canada.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, India. The Games cost $11 billion and are the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. It was the first time that the Commonwealth Games were held in India and the second time they were held in Asia after Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998. A total of 6,081 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and dependencies competed in 21 sports and 272 events. The final medal tally was led by Australia. The host nation India achieved its best performance ever in any sporting event, finishing second overall. Rwanda made its Games debut.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow, Scotland. It was the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland with around 4,950 athletes from 71 different nations and territories competing in 18 different sports, outranking the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, capital city of Scotland. Usain Bolt competed in the 4×100 metres relay of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and set a Commonwealth Games record with his teammates. The Games received acclaim for their organisation, attendance, and the public enthusiasm of the people of Scotland, with Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper hailing them as "the standout games in the history of the movement".
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia and the host nation will be going to host the games for the fifth time. There will be an equal number of events for men and women. This marks the first time in history that a major multi-sport event will have equality in terms of events.
The three nations to have hosted the Commonwealth 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)).
Inclusion of para-sports
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 in Manchester, England, 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.
The Commonwealth Winter Games was a multi-sport event comprising winter sports, last held in 1966. Three editions of the Games have been staged. The Winter Games were designed as a counterbalance to the Commonwealth Games, which focuses on summer sports, to accompany the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympic Games. The winter Games were founded by T.D. Richardson. The 1958 Commonwealth Winter Games were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. This was the inaugural games for the winter edition. The 1962 Games were also held in St. Moritz, complementing the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, and the 1966 event was held in St. Moritz as well, following which the idea was discontinued.
In the year 2000 the CGF took on the added responsibility of the Commonwealth Youth Games, open to athletes 18 years of age and under the Youth Games provide an excellent opportunity for aspiring young athletes from the Commonwealth with a taste of what the Commonwealth Games has in store for them in the future.
The inaugural Games were in Edinburgh, Scotland with the last edition being hosted in 2004 in Bendigo, Australia with Pune, India in 2008 hosting the 3rd edition. In such a short space of time the Youth Games has grown in stature and this is evidenced by award of the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games to the Isle of Man, the 2015 edition to Samoa and Bahamas in 2017.
Commonwealth Games Federation
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the international organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games, and is the foremost authority in matters relating to the games. The headquarters of CGF are located in London, England, United Kingdom.
The Commonwealth Games Movement is made of three major elements:
- International Federations (IFs) are the governing bodies that supervise a sport at an international level. For example, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is the international governing body for basketball.
- Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) represent and regulate the Commonwealth Games Movement within each country. For example, the Commonwealth Games England (CGE) is the CGA of England. There are currently 70 CGAs recognised by the CGF.
- Organising Committees for the Commonwealth Games (OCCWGs) are temporary committees responsible for the organisation of each Commonwealth Games. OCCWGs are dissolved after each Games once the final report is delivered to the CGF.
English is the official language of the Commonwealth. The other language used at each Commonwealth Games is the language of the host country (or languages, if a country has more than one official language apart from English). Every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these two (or more) languages, or the main depending on whether the host country is an English speaking country.
Various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. This ceremony takes place before the events have occurred. The ceremony typically starts with the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem. The flag of the Commonwealth Games Federation, flag of the last hosting nation and the next hosting nation are also hosted during the opening ceremony. The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance and theatre representative of its culture. The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Delhi Games reportedly cost $70 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.
After the artistic portion of the ceremony, the athletes parade into the stadium grouped by nation. The last hosting nation is traditionally the first nation to enter. Nations then enter the stadium alphabetical or continental wise with the host country's athletes being the last to enter. Speeches are given, formally opening the Games. Finally, the Queen's Baton is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the final baton carrier, often a successful Commonwealth athlete from the host nation, who hands it over to the Head of the Commonwealth.
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 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.
At the Closing Ceremony of every Commonwealth Games the CGF President makes an award and presents a trophy to one athlete who has competed with particular distinction and honour both in terms of athletic performance and overall contribution to his or her team. Athletes are nominated by their Commonwealth Games Association at the end of the final day of competition and the winner is selected by a panel comprising the CGF President and representatives from each of the six Commonwealth Regions. The ‘David Dixon Award’ as it is called was introduced in Manchester 2002, after the late David Dixon, former Honorary Secretary of the CGF, in honour of his monumental contribution to Commonwealth sport for many years.
A medal ceremony is held after each event is concluded. The winner, second and third-place competitors or teams stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals. After the medals are given out by a CGF member, the national flags of the three medalists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medalists country plays. Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, as they aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag-bearers.
- List of Commonwealth Games cities
Images for kids
Opening ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games at Brisbane, Australia
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