Boycotts and Bailouts: The Archives of the Commonwealth Games Council of Scotland

By Magee, Karl | African Research & Documentation, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Boycotts and Bailouts: The Archives of the Commonwealth Games Council of Scotland


Magee, Karl, African Research & Documentation


In December 2010 the archives of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland were transferred to the University of Stirling Archives. The Council is the lead body for Commonwealth sport in Scotland and is responsible for selecting, preparing and managing Scotland's team at the Commonwealth Games. It is one of the seventy-one national Commonwealth Games Associations who are members of the Commonwealth Games Federation which is the parent body for the Games. The bulk of the collection, which consists of approximately one hundred and fifteen linear metres of records, relates to the planning, organisation and administration of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, which were both held in Edinburgh. As well as these two major sporting events organised in Scotland the archive also contains material relating to the participation of Scottish athletes at other Commonwealth and Olympic Games. The relationship of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland with other sporting bodies is also recorded in the collection's minutes and extensive correspondence files.

This paper will provide an introduction to this new archive of great importance to those interested in the history of sport. It will concentrate in particular on the boycott suffered by the 1986 Games, when thirty-two Commonwealth nations, angered by the attitude of the British government towards the South African apartheid regime, refused to participate, and will highlight material of relevance to the study of the history of politics and sport in Africa in the collection.

Edinburgh was awarded the 1986 Games at a meeting of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation in 1980. It was the first city to be awarded the Games for a second time, after a successful competition in 1970 which became known as the Friendly Games. A review of the papers in the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland Archive relating to the 1986 Games shows that one of the main concerns and preoccupations of the Games organisers was to avoid a boycott of the Games by the Commonwealth's African members at all costs. The sporting conduct of the members of the Commonwealth was to be judged against two criteria governing the attitude of Commonwealth nations towards South Africa's apartheid regime which were established in the years preceding the Games - the Gleneagles Declaration of 1977 and the Commonwealth Games Code of Conduct agreed in 1982. In the run up to the 1986 games there were a number of sporting events which clashed with the aspirations set out in these agreements and raised the spectre of a boycott in Edinburgh.

In 1976 twenty eight nations boycotted the Olympic Games because of the refusal of the International Olympic Committee to ban New Zealand after its rugby team had toured South Africa. In response to this the leaders of Commonwealth governments signed the Gleneagles Declaration in June 1977, a statement of their opposition to 'apartheid in sport'. The Commonwealth nations agreed it was:

the urgent duty of each of their Governments to vigorously combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking away every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or from any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin. (Gleneagles Declaration, June 1977)

The Commonwealth Games code of conduct came about as a result of the controversy caused by the 1981 tour by the Springboks rugby team to New Zealand. The tour clearly breached the spirit of the Gleneagles Declaration and the threat of a boycott of the 1982 Commonwealth Games (which were held in Brisbane) was raised by a number of African nations. To address these concerns an extraordinary general meeting of the Commonwealth Games Federation was held in London on 5th May 1982.

The minutes of this meeting provide an indication of the anger felt by many Commonwealth nations at the Springboks tour of New Zealand, but also the differing ways in which they sought to address it. …

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