A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth

By W. David McIntyre | Go to book overview

22
Sport and the Commonwealth
Games

‘The future of the Commonwealth will not rest on economic factors alone. It is vitally important for the continual relevance and strength of the association that the meaning and spirit of Commonwealth reaches the grassroots, particularly young people. Sport can serve the Commonwealth well in this regard, becoming a first point of information about the Commonwealth for young people.’ 1 These evangelistic words from the 1993 report by the Chogm Committee on Co-operation Through Sport (CCCS) highlight the significance of the Commonwealth’s most popular activities.

We have seen how knowledge about the Commonwealth is found by many commentators to be abysmally low – confined mainly to a few political leaders and some professional Vippso élites. Even among university graduates the level of information is poor because the Commonwealth hardly figures in today’s curricula. There is, however, one great popular occasion when the Commonwealth hits the news, fills television screens day after day for over a week, and generates excitement and passion among people of all ages and that is the Commonwealth Games. In the four-year interval between the Games, passions are undoubtedly kindled by other international sporting contests, especially the Olympic Games, and the great soccer, cricket and rugby fixtures. In the last two, Commonwealth members provide most of the leading practitioners and most of the winners. But only the Games are an exclusively Commonwealth occasion; indeed, the Games are often the only point of popular identification with the Commonwealth for most of its peoples.

One billion people, out of the 1.7 billion total population of the Commonwealth, are under the age of 16. A first priority for the Sports Committee was finding ways to connect with these young people and

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