The Commonwealth Games are an amateur sports event held every four years between members of the Commonwealth. In 2014 it coincides with Scotland celebrating its second ‘Year of Homecoming’ as well as hosting the Ryder Golf Cup. ‘Piping Live’ is the biggest international festival of its kind in the world and is expected to draw 50,000 music fans to Glasgow when free shows including Music of the Clans events will be sponsored by Homecoming 2014. The Edinburgh International Festival is in its sixty-seventh year, and 2014 also coincides with the year for Scotland’s crucial vote on the Independence Referendum on 18 September.
Glasgow saw the completion of vast new infrastructure and a facelift to embrace athletes and visitors from around the world in a spirit of welcome and friendship, to include Scotland’s home athletes and great artists. The city produced a successful Commonwealth Games, said to be the best ever. Added to a spectacular 2014 Festival programme, Glasgow has indeed flourished and can be very proud of holding the ‘Friendly Games’.
The traditional Queen’s Baton Relay arrived back in Scotland on 14 June 2014 to continue its journey through every local authority in Scotland with performances and celebrations taking place in communities across the country. It arrived in Glasgow on 20 July to travel through every part of the Host City in the three days immediately before the Opening Ceremony on 23 July 2014. Many cultural and other events were aimed at connecting communities and visitors to people, places and ideas inspired by the Commonwealth. ‘Commonwealth Games’ The idea of a sporting event that gathered all the Commonwealth nations together had been discussed for decades. In 1930 when the Games were finally launched in Hamilton, Ontario, it was under the title The British Empire Games. The original choice for the second British Empire Games had been Johannesburg. But the ugly spectre of apartheid created waves and a change of mind meant that these Games were staged in London. The Games were halted between 1938 and 1950 due to WW2 and its difficult aftermath.
In 1954 the title was changed to The British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The Games continued to grow with Aden, British Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Federation of Rhodesia, Nyasaland, St. Lucia and Tanganyika making a total of thirty-four participating nations in Perth in 1962. Among the newcomers at Games in Kingston, Jamaica in 1966 were Antigua, South Arabia and Tanzania. In 1970 in Edinburgh, another name change took place when Empire was dropped for the event, becoming British Commonwealth Games with forty-two participating nations.
In 1986 the Games in Edinburgh were a near fiasco. Beset by boycotts – when thirty-two nations pulled out in an anti-apartheid row – and financial issues, it went ahead to see Edinburgh become the first city to host the Commonwealth Games twice. Scotland’s roots with the Commonwealth Games run deep with Scots participating from the first Games in Hamilton, Ontario. Since then a Scottish team has participated in every Games, a record shared by England, Wales, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Two Ambassadors for Glasgow 2014 were the Edinburgh born sports star Allan Wells, Scotland’s greatest Commonwealth Games athlete, who had been a long jumper but it was when he switched to sprinting that he became the Golden Boy of the athletics track, and Scotland’s greatest Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, eleven times World Champion. Scotland finished a proud fourth in the final Medals table behind England, Australia and Canada.
XX Commonwealth Games
Held from 23 July to 3 August 6,500 athletes from seventy-one Commonwealth nations and territories participated in seventeen sports. Described as twelve days, 261 events, 824 medals – and one heck of a party – the Games delivered a sporting spectacle never to be forgotten. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies reflected the party spirit that prevailed throughout. Never before has a city embraced the Commonwealth Games like Glasgow did. More than one million fans bought tickets and just three per cent of them were purchased by overseas visitors. It was a Games made by the city, for the city. The Games may be gone … but their spirit lives on.
Ita Marguet, August 2014
Note: Acknowledgement is given to sources used in this text. It follows a visit to Glasgow for the XX Commonwealth Games 2014. At the Closing Ceremony, the Queen’s Baton was passed to Australia to host the Commonwealth Games at the City of Gold Coast in 2018. Previous Games were held in Hamilton (1930), London (1934), Sydney (1938), Auckland (1950), Vancouver (1954), Cardiff (1958), Perth (1962), Kingston (1966), Edinburgh (1970), Christchurch (1974), Edmonton (1978), Brisbane (1982), Edinburgh (1986), Auckland (1990), Victoria (1994), Kuala Lumpur (1998), Manchester (2002), Melbourne (2006), Delhi (2010).