The Commonwealth Games

Photo: Sport the library/Tom Putt

The prestigious and not at all irrelevant Commonwealth Games commenced once again on the Gold Coast, Australia in April, 2018. This edition of the longstanding event hosted 71 national teams, which is impressive considering many of them weren’t (nations, that is), in a Commonwealth currently boasting a membership of 53.

This did not deter the fans however, especially in the host nation of Australia where local media galvanised the Pacific powerhouse with breathless reports of the former British penal colony punching above its weight yet again.

“The world is watching!” (…actually, no).

“1.5 billion people were watching!” (…not quite).

Here’s a statistical tidbit or two.

The British Commonwealth was once a great Empire and currently still boasts a rather impressive population of around 2.3 billion people (94% of whom live in India and Africa).

Since inception in 1930, the 21 editions of the Commonwealth Games have been hosted once in India (Delhi, 2010) and probably even then, the Indians were, as always, busy watching the cricket instead. The games have never been hosted in Africa.

For some reason Australia hosted this one for the fifth time, and the sports-mad nation erupted with pride for eleven days, as the Aussies obliterated oponents from not-quite-countries such as Faulkland Islands, Montserrat and Niue (none of whose participants won a medal at this edition of the Games, or any previous). The island of Niue was a particular disappointment, failing yet again to win a single fucking medal even though one in eighty of the whole “country” of 1,600 people was competing.

The Australians gallantly topped the medal tally as usual, claiming almost a quarter of all 800-odd medals on offer and declared the occasion to be a great success… except for those who didn’t.

As usual, some athletes and a few officials (this time from Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone) took their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to abscond, some missing their events to hopefully disappear into Australia.

And then, it was over, and within a week, largely forgotten. All the hyper-nationalistic bullshit ratchetted back down to a normal level and life continued.

As an Australian, who spent those eleven days in South Korea and Japan, chatting with other Aussies, Indians, Kiwis, English, Canadians… I didn’t hear a single mention of the Commonwealth Games.

Empires rise and fall. To my British friends, here’s to a soft Brexit, and all the best. Cheers.




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