Although the Commonwealth Games have been taking over the summer scheduling on the BBC and has even made a mild impact on social media (#Glasgow2014 is trending as I write) let’s be honest, it’s no Olympics, and it’s certainly no World Cup, and yet, the Commonwealth games have undoubtedly been making ripples in the ever growing pool of World Sports. But is there space for such an event anymore, a celebration featuring the former colonies of a disbanded empire?
Recently the games have come under criticism for allowing so many nations with such horrendous human rights records and anti-gay laws to compete. Add that to the already existing criticism that the games are a celebration of an Empire which (though impressively huge) exploited, murdered and enslaved untold thousands of people then there are plenty of reasons for this Sporting Event to not exist.
The fact of the matter is, the Commonwealth games are and always will be a lasting achievement for our once great country to be proud of, the games are nothing like what the aforementioned detractors seem to think. As much as it’s a relief to finally be part of a competition which isn’t completely dominated by the USA, China and Russia this isn’t the main reason we should support the games in Glasgow. They aren’t celebrating the horrors of the British Empire or Colonialism, and certainly not supporting the 42 states (of 53) of the Commonwealth which still have archaic anti-gay laws but the commonwealth games can show that sometimes you can forget the troubles of the past and simply move on and make amends.
The Commonwealth was originally established as former colonies left the British Empire in the late 19th Century and formerly constituted in 1949. Back in those early days the Games were a way to properly establish that the states were, as the declaration of the Commonwealth decreed, “free and equal”. Despite ruling with an iron fist for almost a century the British Empire saw the error of its ways eventually and self-governance of the colonies became the way forward. Despite the horrors of the empire, it seems that bygones are now indeed, bygones.
The games may well be the lasting legacy of an Empire but they’re also the legacy of the (relatively) peaceful end to an Empire and, in many ways, the weird way in which the commonwealth has formed an alliance because of it. Ignoring the obvious benefit in terms of helping develop sport and fitness in so many nations – it also seems to represent something very important in a modern world so rife with conflict and strife. It is a message which is even more potent in a time with seemingly more tension than usual; The Gaza Strip, Ukraine and now North Korea’s increased posturing over nuclear attacks on the USA. Perhaps the Commonwealth can show the rest of the world just how easy it is to let sleeping dogs lie; these games which mean so little to some people can become something that represents something so very important, and it’s time people start sitting up and paying attention.