History of the Commonwealth Games

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Commonwealth Games 2022

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Finally, the much-awaited year arrived when athletes can show off their hard work, expertise and practice on an international level. Its 2022, the year of hosting the Commonwealth Games that took place in Birmingham, UK. India is making headlines with several contenders from the country clinching several golds, silver and bronze. But did you ever wonder, where it all got started? In this article, we will be dealing with the same where we will talk about “what is the Common Wealth Games”, “History of the Commonwealth Games”, Performance of India in Commonwealth Games 2022” and a lot more.  

So, without any further delay let us start our reading journey!  

What is the Commonwealth Games?  

The Commonwealth Games is an international multi-sports political alliance between 54 countries who were earlier members of the British Empire. However, the group also includes member countries who were not a part of the British Empire. The first Commonwealth Games was held in 1930 and has been continuing since then. This year the Commonwealth Games 2022 venue is Birmingham, UK where several countries have participated and clinched gold, silver and bronze medals. India is also an active participant of the Commonwealth Games 2022 and has secured the top medals. The 22nd edition of the Commonwealth Games 2022 event started on 28 July 2022 and ended on 8 August 2022. 

History of the Commonwealth Games   

The Proponent of the idea of the Commonwealth Games  

  • The idea of the Commonwealth Games was first conceived by Reverend John Astley Cooper who was a clergyman of the Anglican Church. He suggested an international sports competition in a letter in The Times to be held between Britain and other members of the Empire. The international sports event would comprise a “Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival that would repeat every four years with the sole aim to promote goodwill and better understanding of the British Empire. 
  • The fact that Cooper lived in England and was brought up in Australia can be an explanation behind the conception of such an idea. The idea unfolded 40 years later with the Commonwealth Games. However, the modern-day Olympic Games which were also inspired by the idea put by John Astley Cooper developed much earlier. 

Precursor to the Commonwealth Games  

  • The first-ever introduction of an international sporting event took place in 1911 during the coronation ceremony of King George V in London. It was named the “Festival of the Empire”. Different teams from several countries participated in the Inter-Empire Championships that included Australia, Canada, South Africa and UK. 
  • The popular sports that were a part of the Championships included boxing, swimming, athletics and wrestling. A silver trophy, 2ft 6in high and a weight of 340oz was presented to Canada for holding the top position. The “Festival of the Empire” was the first glimpse of how succeeding sporting events in the future would look like. 

The First Games  

The first Commonwealth Games took place in Hamilton, Canada in 1930 where a total of 10 nations participated with 400 athletes. Bobby Robinson was the founding father of the Commonwealth Games who executed the task that was into discussions since decades. The games have been taking place every four years since 1930 except 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.  

Changes in the naming of the Commonwealth Games  

  • The name of the Commonwealth Games had gone through a series of changes since it’s execution in 1930. Between 1930 to 1050 it was named “British Empire Games” which later changed to “British Empire and Commonwealth Games” from 1954 to 1966. Again from 1966 to 1974, the games were called the “British Commonwealth Games”. From 1978 onwards, the word “British” was dropped and the final outcome was the “Commonwealth Games” that continues to this day. 
  • The Commonwealth Games are also officially nicknamed as the “Friendly Games” because of its aim to promote friendship across different continents by participating in various sport championships in an organized single event. 

Host cities of the Commonwealth Games  

Several countries participate in the Commonwealth Games like India, Australia, England, South Africa, Wales, The Bahamas, Malta, Singapore, Jersey, Samoa, Kenya etc. Total 56 countries are members of the CWG, most of which were former territories of the British Empire. There are, however, 72 Commonwealth Games Associations. Total 19 cities have hosted the Commonwealth Games since 1930. 

Timeline of the key Commonwealth Games Events  

  • August 1930 – The first Commonwealth Games take place in the name of British Empire Games. The event was hosted by Ontario, Canada where 11 countries participated. Gordon Smallacombe created history by becoming the first Canadian triple jumper and the first sportsman to win a gold medal in the British Empire Games. 
  • February 1938 – After the British Empire Games in 1934, occurs the international sports contest in Sydney, Australia where more than 40,000 spectators arrived. Following this event, the two other games in 1942 and 1946 got skipped due to the World War II. 
  • August 1954 – The British Empire and Commonwealth Games are held in Vancouver, Canada. People watched the “Miracle Mile” run by Roger Bannister and John Landy on Television. Both the competitors took less than 4 minutes to complete the run. 
  • July 1970 – Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of England attends this international multi-sports event for the first time in Edinburgh, Scotland. 
  • August 1994 – Para athletes or athletes with a disability were made inclusive of the Commonwealth Games in this year. 
  • September 1998 – For the first time, Commonwealth Games were held in an Asian country in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Overall, 70 countries participated in the event with more than 5000 athletes. 
  • October 2010 – India becomes the organizer of the Commonwealth Games from 3 to 14 October 2010 which was the most expensive games to be held in India. More than 4000 athletes participated making it the largest CWG till date. 
  • April 2018 – For the fifth time, the Commonwealth Games take place in Australia. Before that, Australia had taken part in the Games in 1938, 1962, 1982 and 2006. It is also the year when an equal number of game events take place for both women and men. 

Performance of India in the CWG Since 1930  

  • India has participated in all of the editions of the Commonwealth Games except in 1930, 1950, 1962 and 1986. India has also hosted the CWG in Delhi in the year 2010. In the event, the country finished second and won 102 medals with 38 gold, 27 silver and 36 bronze. 
  • India has not won any medals only in the two editions of 1938 and 1954. The country ranks fourth after Australia (1st rank), England (2nd rank) and Canada (3rd rank) in the number of medals secured in the Commonwealth Games. It has secured a total of 558 medals, out of which 199 are golds. 

The history of India’s performance in Commonwealth Games since 1930 are presented below: 

  • 2022- Birmingham, England 
  • Gold – 20 
  • Silver – 15 
  • Bronze – 23 
  • 2018 – Gold Coast, Australia 
  • Gold – 26 
  • Silver – 20 
  • Bronze – 20
  • 2014 – Glasgow, Scotland 
  • Gold – 15 
  • Silver – 30 
  • Bronze – 19 
  • 2010 – New Delhi, India 
  • Gold – 38 
  • Silver – 27 
  • Bronze – 36 
  • 2006 – Melbourne, Australia 
  • Gold – 22 
  • Silver – 17 
  • Bronze – 11 
  • 2002 – Manchester, England 
  • Gold – 30 
  • Silver – 22 
  • Bronze – 17 
  • 1998 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
  • Gold – 7 
  • Silver – 10 
  • Bronze – 8 
  • 1994 – Victoria, Canada 
  • Gold – 6 
  • Silver – 11 
  • Bronze – 7 
  • 1990 – Auckland, New Zealand 
  • Gold – 13 
  • Silver – 8 
  • Bronze – 11 
  • 1986 – Edinburgh, Scotland 
  • India did not participate 
  • 1982 – Brisbane, Australia 
  • Gold – 5 
  • Silver – 8 
  • Bronze – 3 
  • 1978 – Edmonton, Canada 
  • Gold – 5 
  • Silver – 4 
  • Bronze – 6 
  • 1974 – Christchurch, New Zealand 
  • Gold – 4 
  • Silver – 8 
  • Bronze – 3 
  • 1970 – Edinburgh, Scotland 
  • Gold – 5 
  • Silver – 3 
  • Bronze – 4 
  • 1966 – Kingston, Jamaica  
  • Gold – 3 
  • Silver – 4 
  • Bronze – 3 
  • 1962 – Perth, Australia 
  • India did not participate 
  • 1958 – Cardiff, Wales 
  • Gold – 2 
  • Silver – 1 
  • Bronze – 0 
  • 1954 – Vancouver, Canada  
  • Gold – 0 
  • Silver – 0 
  • Bronze – 0 
  • 1950 – Auckland, New Zealand 
  • India did not participate 
  • 1938 – Sydney, Australia 
  • Gold – 0 
  • Silver – 0 
  • Bronze – 0 
  • 1934 – London, England 
  • Gold – 0 
  • Silver – 0 
  • Bronze – 1 
  • 1930 – Hamilton, Canada  
  • India did not participate 

Sport-wise medals won by India at the CWG  

India has emerged winners in several different sport competitions in the Commonwealth Games. The sport-wise medals won by India at the Commonwealth Games are as follows: 

  • Shooting- 63 Gold, 44 silver, 28 Bronze 
  • Weightlifting- 46 Gold, 51 Silver, 38 Bronze 
  • Wrestling – 49 Gold, 39 Silver, 26 Bronze 
  • Boxing – 11 Gold, 13 Silver, 20 Bronze 
  • Badminton – 7 Gold, 8 Silver, 12 Bronze 
  • Table Tennis – 8 Gold, 5 Silver, 10 Bronze 
  • Athletics – 6 Gold, 11 Silver, 15 Bronze 
  • Archery – 3 Gold, 1 Silver, 4 Bronze 
  • Hockey – 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze 
  • Squash – 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze 
  • Tennis – 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze 
  • Lawn Bowls – 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 0 Bronze 
  • Para Table Tennis – 1 Gold, 0 Silver, 1 Bronze 
  • Para Powerlifting – 1 Gold, 0 Silver, 0 Bronze 
  • Judo – 0 Gold, 5 Silver, 6 Bronze 
  • Athletics – 0 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze 
  • Gymnastics – 0 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze 
  • Cricket – 0 Gold, 1 Silver, 0 Bronze 
  • Swimming – 0 Gold, 0 Silver, 1 Bronze 

Difference in Commonwealth Games and Olympics  

  • The Olympics are usually divided into Winter and Summer Olympics while the CWG is organised on the same period for both athletes and para-athletes. 
  • 206 countries participated in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 while CWG has total 54 member countries with 72 teams. 
  • Some sporting events such as Lawn Bowls, Netball, Squash and Tenpin Bowling are a part of the Commonwealth Games but they are not included at the Olympics. 

Performance of India in Commonwealth Games 2022  

  • India’s performance in the Commonwealth Games 2022 has been remarkable.
  • The country has secured 61 medals overall, with 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze medals so far.
  • India remains in the top 5 contending position in the 2022 Commonwealth Games. India performed exceptionally well by winning the most medals at Shooting followed by Weightlifting and wrestling.
  • Mirabai Chanu, Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Anchita Sheuli, Sudhir, Sakshi Malik, Deepak Punia, PV Sindhu are some of the top gold clinchers. 

Final Thought!  

Any sports event is not simply an occasion to stand out as the best but also to promote friendly relations between contenders. Commonwealth Games 2022 which is a sports competition on an international level, gives an opportunity for fellow participants to extend their cooperation and pursue the competition in a healthy manner. Competitors do not simply master sports but also learn how to work together and exercise their will. An excellent quote by Michael Jordan can be taken as a reference, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships”. 

With all the facts and figures present, how do you think has India changed as a contender in the CWG before and after Independence? What do you think might amplify India’s performance in the international platform of sports? 

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