History of the Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games have been around for nearly a century and took place on the Gold Coast in 2018. Let’s take a brief look at the history of the Games.

The Commonwealth Games were started in 1930 as the British Empire Games and the aim, when it was first proposed by John Astley Cooper in 1891, was to increase goodwill and understanding within the Empire. The event eventually became the Commonwealth Games in 1978 as the British Empire ended and the Commonwealth of Nations was established.

Despite the inter-governmental organisation having only 53 nation members that were former territories of the British Empire, 71 teams participate in the Commonwealth Games every four years, as several dependent territories participate under their own flags. Brisbane 1982 Melbourne 1956 Australia has won the most medals at 12 of the games so far with 2223 medals won, dominating the swimming and athletics categories.

Australia also has a number of records including Phillip Maxwell Adams who tied with English Mick Gault to win the most medals, eighteen in total, and competed in six games from 1982 to 2002 as a sharpshooter. Bruce Quick also won 14 medals as a sharpshooter for Australia. David Chapman, who was part of the first father-daughter team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, claimed his first Commonwealth Games gold medal at his third time of trying in 2014.

Jennifer Turrall was the youngest medal winner when she won one gold and two silver medals as a thirteen-year-old swimmer in 1974 and Queenslander Susie O’Neill OAM, was nicknamed Madame Butterfly for setting world records and winning a total of 15 medals at the Commonwealth Games and eight at the Olympics. Swimmers Liesel Marie Jones and Ian Thorpe have also won ten gold medals each at the Commonwealth Games.

The Games have been held in 18 cities in 7 countries and were only cancelled twice in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II. The Games have often been boycotted by certain nations due to politics: in 1986, 32 different African, Asian, and Caribbean nations boycotted the Games when then British PM Margaret Thatcher refused to condemn sporting contacts in Apartheid in South Africa. Australia has hosted the Games several times, the first being in 1938 in Sydney. It was then hosted in Perth in 1962, in Brisbane in 1982 and in Melbourne in 2006. Sri Lanka made a surprise bid in 2010 to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games but it was eventually awarded to the Gold Coast.

Several athletes who have participated in the Commonwealth Games have gone on to receive Order of Australia Medals and other honours for their contributions to sport including Ian Thorpe, Phillip Maxwell Adams and Susie O’Neill who even worked as a commentator for the 2006 Commonwealth Games and was appointed to the International Olympics Committee from 2000 to 2005.

Fifteen thousand volunteers were expected to assist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games along with six thousand officials with organisers at this exciting event not just for Australia but for the 2.1 billion people across the entire Commonwealth of Nations being represented by their athletes at the Games.

Marisa Wikramanayake
Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide

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