Friday, March 17, 2006

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are currently being held in Melbourne from the 15th to the 26th of March. What, pray tell, are the Commonwealth Games, and what is the purpose of them?

Well, I'm trying to figure that out myself. It's very similar to the Olympics, but the competitors can only come from Commonwealth countries. There are up to 15 disciplines that participants battle in, many from summer Olympic sports, some distinctly British-interest activities (such as 7-man rugby, netball, and lawn bowling), to win medals. The Games began in 1891 and is held every four years. The Commonwealth Games even has its own version of the Olympic flame -- the Queen's Baton.

There was obviously a purpose in having these Games when they first were held. It helped instill pride in the Commonwealth and reminded people of how great it was. 'The sun never set on the British empire' -- isn't that what they said? But, as I see it, now that the Commonwealth does not have the same power it once had and the majority of the countries have their independence and association with the Commonwealth is really in name only, is there a point to all of this? In addition, according to the Guardian, £500 million ($878 million) is being spent on these Games and there are 250,000 unsold tickets. Not only is there no clear purpose to it all, but little economic vitality in it.

Many Brits and others from the Commonwealth would say, rather huffily, that real purpose is pride. But let's be honest. Save a few names (like many Australian swimmers, some African runners, etc), most of these competitors will not be major players when it comes to the Olympics, let alone win any Olympic medals. This is the chance for small countries like Mauritius and Fiji to accomplish a like task. But let's not exclude the larger of the Commonwealth countries in that number.

The UK has a vested interest in keeping the Commonwealth Games going. Currently, competing in international competition, the countries compete as Great Britain (totally excluding Northern Ireland?). This really irks the Scottish (and probably the Welsh and Northern Irish). The Commonwealth provides the UK with a way to placate Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. In this past Olympics in Turin, the whole of the Great Britain men's curling team came from Scotland (as well the women's team, I believe). I'm pretty sure it was killing them to have to compete as GB. And this won't change any time soon. Why? Cos we've been doing it like this for years, they say. Tradition wins over all here.

Currently, the Boy is in the living room watching half-nekkid women competing in the triathlon. When I said how pointless I found this whole endeavour, and asked him to name the Commonwealth countries (he got England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, with some thought), he got really annoyed. "Go bang on your blog," he said, tersely. So here I am.

And by the way, there are 71 Commonwealth countries. So there, Boy.



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