Saturday, 9 October 2010

Commonwealth Games: Belonging of a previous empire or important sporting entity?

In the 21st Century the idea of a sporting event based on the principles of ‘The Commonwealth’ seems somewhat of an anachronism. It is arguably even more so that, now, for the first time the Commonwealth Games will trudge into India, a country that fought so hard for its independence before its eventual partitioning from the British Empire in 1947.

Even prior to the latest problems surrounding Delhi’s ability to stage the event there have been serious questions as to whether a sports event based on such an antiquated grouping of nations is needed anymore.

The development in global travel and the sponsorship and organisation of sports events means that athletes no longer have to wait four years for the Olympics to show their wares on the international stage. The sporting calendar is riddled with World and Continental Championships, foreign tours and lucrative athletics meetings. Why then is there a need for another championships without sporting superpowers like USA, Russia and China, not to mention all of South and Central America and the majority of Africa and Asia.

The paucity of competition on show is added to by the withdrawal of premier athletes from those countries who do qualify to compete. Even before the latest concerns surrounding accommodation and infrastructure two of Britain’s leading athletes, European Championship double gold-winning distance runner Mo Farah and World and European Champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis had decided to withdraw from the competition. Meanwhile one of the faces of the successful Glasgow 2014 bid, Chris Hoy, has decided to compete in the Cycling World Championships rather than travel to Delhi.

Therefore, if the Commonwealth Games are not worth having then why has Glasgow gone to the hassle, time and expense to host them in 2014?

The truth is that the state of the Commonwealth Games is very similar to that of the Europa League in football. Like the Europa League compared to the Champions League, the Commonwealth Games doesn’t have the same quality, depth of competition, recognisable names or even the glitz and hype of an Olympic Games. However, it is still the third largest multi-sport event in the world. It gives smaller nations the chance to gain recogntition on the international stage, gives all those who compete more ‘Games experience’ and British athletes their only opportunity to represent Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales at an international event.

Moreover, it is the biggest sporting event that we will ever have the opporunity to host in Scotland. Whilst Scotland has proven itself over many years to be capable of hosting large, one-off, single sport events such as the Open Golf Championship and the Chmapions League final, we are simply not big enough nor do we have the capacity in our cities to host an Olympic Games or a World Cup.

Despite the latest concerns surrounding the athlete’s facilties and bridge collapses the Delhi Games will go ahead, too much money has already been invested for it not to. Whether a number of the major nations including the Home Nations, New Zealand and Canada take part will wait to be seen. However, there is one selfish positive for Glasgow to take out of the Delhi debacle. In 2004 Greece bankrupted itself in an attempt to rival the unparalled success of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. At least Glasgow will not have to go to such lengths to appear impressive in 2014.

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