Do the Commonwealth Games still matter in 2022? Do it…

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The first Commonwealth Games, originally known as the British Empire Games, were held in Hamilton, Canada in 1930.

Since then, the Games have been held in many major Commonwealth countries. Canada held them again in Vancouver in 1954, Edmonton in 1978 and Victoria in 1994. Australia has also hosted the Games four times: Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962, Brisbane in 1982 and Melbourne in 2006.

In 1998, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia was the first Asian country to host. In 2010, the Games returned to Asia when they were held in Delhi. The next iteration will take place in Birmingham in the UK, starting this week.

Holding another event in a seemingly overloaded sporting calendar raises questions about the relevance of the Commonwealth Games, especially given its colonial roots.

“Our federation has done a lot of soul-searching in recent times to examine our impact and significance,” Commonwealth Games Federation President Dame Louise Martin said in 2018.

“The Commonwealth Sports Movement has reached a difficult chapter in its existence – when the very word and purpose of the ‘Commonwealth’ came into question and the negative impacts of the Games [such as cost] on a host community have been highlighted.

Countries that are part of the Commonwealth of Nations participate in the Commonwealth Games. These are usually countries that are former territories of the British Empire.

The Games, however, attempted to move away from their foundation and promote independence and self-reliance.

“We are inspired by the diversity and vibrancy of the Commonwealth itself – a voluntary association of 72 nations and territories – and its enduring commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” it said. it on the Commonwealth Games Federation website.

“Today, the Commonwealth Games Federation is much more than the curator of major Games. As the cornerstone of the Commonwealth itself, our vibrant sports movement…has a key role to play in a vibrant, engaged and active Commonwealth of Nations and Territories.

Despite this, 14 Commonwealth realms still exist outside of the UK today. A Commonwealth realm is a country that has Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. All these countries will participate in the Birmingham Games this year.

Birmingham 2022

South Africa will send a wide range of athletes to the Games, which start on July 28, from rarer ones, such as judo, lawn bowling and wheelchair basketball, to more traditional ones, such as athletics, swimming and cycling.

Meanwhile, there will be the introduction of women’s over-20 cricket and women’s rugby sevens will make its second appearance, with South Africa sending teams to compete in both disciplines.

Most of these sports codes have another quadrennial event in which athletes compete for gold, the Olympic Games.

Nonetheless, the smaller pool of athletes competing at the Commonwealth Games increases the podium chances for young athletes from smaller nations, giving them a global audience to showcase their skills.

Although cricket and rugby have their own World Cups, the Commonwealth Games allow athletes from these sports to join the SA team and join their countrymen in the Commonwealth Village, where they will have the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise.

A unique feature of the Commonwealth Games — because all participating countries are former British territories — is that all athletes can converse with each other in a common language, English. This is why the Games have often been nicknamed the “Friendly Games”.

This year’s Commonwealth Games are far more progressive than ever, being the first major multi-sport event to have more women’s events than men’s. There will also be the largest para-sport program in Games history, with eight elements on the programme.

However, the plan is to drastically reduce the workforce after Birmingham 2022.

The number of sports will be reduced to 15, and only two, athletics and swimming, will be compulsory. The others will be drawn from a long list of grassroots sports or will be local events selected because of their popularity in the host country. Esports and mass participation events were both mentioned as potential new events.

“We can’t stay as we are, it’s not sustainable. We have to move forward, we have to modernize. In my opinion, Birmingham will be the last of this size, ”said Martin Inside the games Last year.

“The plan is for the Games to be smaller, easier and cheaper to run, and to change them up in a way that will appeal to younger audiences,” she added.

Going forward, the federation will encourage co-hosting, across all cities, regions and countries (whether Commonwealth or not), and remove the requirement for cities to build new venues and accommodation for the Games .

Some of these changes are sensible and long overdue for a “mega-event” that seems to struggle to live up to the description.

Other changes, like the introduction of esports, have an air of desperation about the future of the Commonwealth Games, which increasingly feel like their time is over. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168, which is available nationwide for R25.

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