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Commonwealth Games


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An organized athletic competition between the self-governing nations of the former British Empire and Commonwealth, first staged in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930, in London in 1934 (when women's events were first included), and then at four-yearly intervals (barring 1942 and 1946). The event was originally called the Empire Games (1930–50), then the British Empire and Commonwealth Games (1954–66), the British Commonwealth Games (1970–74), and finally the Commonwealth Games, from 1978. Commonwealth Day officially replaced Empire Day in Britain in 1958, the term ‘Commonwealth’ having become more generally applied after Word War II. It referred, in the later 19th century, to the status of the dominions, that is, self-governing former colonies within the British Empire, the first of which was Canada, given its dominion status by the British North America Act in 1867 (dominion status was granted to Australia in 1900, New Zealand in 1907, and South Africa in 1910).

The Commonwealth Games Federation's ‘role-statement’ expresses a ‘will to dynamically promote and celebrate a unique, friendly, world class Games’, around its core ideals of ‘Humanity’, ‘Equality’, and ‘Destiny’. The Commonwealth's two billion people comprise approximately 30 per cent of the world's population, and the Games broadened its programme beyond core athletics disciplines to team games—hockey (field), cricket, netball, rugby 7s—in 1998. Seen—in implicit comparison with the gigantism of the Olympics—as ‘The Friendly Games’, the Commonwealth Games has shown in the sporting sphere what historians have called ‘the strong but elastic link of former ties to Britain’. This sporting embodiment of the British Commonwealth of Nations—the network of self-governing states and their dependencies formerly within the British Empire—illustrates the story of the end of Empire and the capacity of sport to contribute to the remaking of national culture in a post-colonial context.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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