The 21st Commonwealth Games commenced on April 4th in Gold Coast, Australia. These Games have been praised as the most inclusive yet. Sports is often considered a means to foster peace and positive ties.
The Commonwealth of Nations was defined by the Statute of Westminster. The statute described the United Kingdom and Dominions as “autonomous communities, equal in status, united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.” As numerous colonies gained independence from the British Empire, the Commonwealth was redefined to include former colonies and remove allegiance to the crown.
Today, the Commonwealth includes 53 countries, including some (such as Mozambique and Rwanda) which never were British colonies. The commonwealth therefore makes up almost 30% of the world’s population. It is largely a symbolic association, and does not come with formal economic or security ties. However, member nations do have to adhere to a charter based on principles of democracy.
The Commonwealth Games are a symbol of ties between Commonwealth nations, and take place every four years. The first Games took place in 1930 and were held in Hamilton, Canada. At the time, they were called the British Empire Games. 11 countries participated: Australia, Bermuda, British Guiana, Canada, England, Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales. India first took part in the second Commonwealth Games in 1934.
The United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace calls sport a “universal language” that can be a “powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding.” Sports are often used as a tool by the United Nations peacekeeping operations to help rebuild trust and integrate communities. The agency points out that “intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.”
Nicknamed “Gold Coast 2018,” this year’s Commonwealth games are being held in Gold Coast, Australia. The opening ceremony for the 21st Games took place on April 4th at Carrara Stadium, cost approximately $20 million, and was attended by Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Games, which will cost the Australian government over $1.1 billion, will include 18 sports. Approximately 6,600 athletes and officials from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories will participate in the Gold Coast games. This year’s games are the first to hold an equal number of sporting events for male and female athletes. Women’s rugby sevens and beach volleyball will now be included. Additionally, according to reports, the para-sporting event is the largest thus far.
"The Commonwealth is now more relevant than ever before. We have a great opportunity to be the global leader in demonstrating how we can successfully thrive together, as both a deeply diverse yet unified family of 2.4 billion people,” said Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin in her opening ceremony speech. She expressed her belief that the Games were a positive force in the world.
Two Indian athletes have won medals in the Games thus far. P. Gururaja was the first to take home a medal for the country, winning silver in the Men’s 56kg weightlifting event. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu went on to break personal and overall Games records and win the women’s weightlifting gold. “This continues to heal the wounds of my Olympic heartbreak,” the 23 year old athlete said.
The Gold Coast Games will close on April 15th. The next Games will be held in Birmingham, England, in 2022. However, bids for the 2022 games were sparse. It has been observed that such large-scale sporting events require huge investments in infrastructure by host governments. According to some estimates, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, hosted by Delhi, India, cost over $10.5 billion.
Our assessment is that sports are a unifying force that reach people across boundaries and cultures. Sports have sometimes played a hand in international affairs. The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which have been called the “Peace Olympics” serve as an example of this. The Pyeongchang Olympics have been credited with enabling dialogue between North and South Korea. The famous “ping pong diplomacy” incident of 1971 is thought to have helped thaw Cold War tensions between the United States and communist China, establishing a path for Nixon to visit China in 1972. We believe that international sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games help bring people together.