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Commonwealth Games

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Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Games Federation Logo.svg
Commonwealth Games Federation seal, adopted in 2001
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Commonwealth Secretariat Hon. Michael Fennell OJ, CD
Website Commonwealth Games Federation

The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations.

As well as many Olympic sports, the Games also include some sports that are played mainly in Commonwealth countries, such as lawn bowls, rugby sevens and netball. The Games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which also controls the sporting programme and selects the host cities. The host city is selected from across the Commonwealth, with eighteen cities in seven countries having hosted it.

The event was first held in 1930 under the title of the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The event was renamed as the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, the British Commonwealth Games in 1970, and gained its current title in 1978. Only six teams have attended every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Australia has been the highest achieving team for eleven games, England for seven and Canada for one.

There are currently 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and 71 teams participate in the Games. The four Home Nations of the United KingdomEngland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – send separate teams to the Commonwealth Games, and individual teams are also sent from the British Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (unlike at the Olympic Games, where the combined "Great Britain" team represents all four home nations and the Crown dependencies). Many of the British overseas territories also send their own teams. The Australian external territory of Norfolk Island also sends its own team, as do the Cook Islands and Niue, two states in free association with New Zealand. It was reported that Tokelau, another dependency of New Zealand would be sending a team to the 2010 Games in New Delhi, India. In the end however they did not.


A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by the Reverend Astley Cooper in 1891 when he wrote an article in The Times suggesting a "Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire".

In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held in London to celebrate the coronation of King George V. As part of the festival an Inter-Empire Championships was held in which teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom competed in events such as boxing, wrestling, swimming and athletics.

In 1928, Melville Marks Robinson of Canada was asked to organise the first ever British Empire Games. These were held in Hamilton, Canada two years later.

The first Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The name changed to British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, to British Commonwealth Games in 1970 and assumed the current name of the Commonwealth Games in 1978.

At the 1930 games, women competed in the swimming events only. From 1934, women also competed in some athletics events.

The Empire Games flag was donated in 1931 by the British Empire Games Association of Canada. The year and location of subsequent games were added until the 1950 games. The name of the event was changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the flag was retired as a result.

  • Commonwealth Winter Games
  • Commonwealth Youth Games


The 2006 relay passing through Wagga Wagga, Australia
  • From 1930 until 1950, the parade of nations was led by a single flagbearer carrying the Union Flag.
  • Since 1958, the Queen's Baton Relay has taken place, in which athletes carry a baton from Buckingham Palace to the games opening ceremony. This baton has within it Queen Elizabeth II's message of greeting to the athletes. The baton's final bearer is usually a famous sporting personage of the host nation.
  • All other nations march in English alphabetical order, except that the first nation marching in the Parade of Athletes is the host nation of the previous games, and the host nation of the current games marches last. In 2006 countries marched in alphabetical order in geographical regions.
  • Three national flags fly from the stadium on the poles that are used for medal ceremonies: Previous host nation, Current host nation, Next host nation.
  • The military is more active in the Opening Ceremony than in the Olympic Games. This is to honour the British Military traditions of the Old Empire


Locations of the games, and participating countries
      Countries which have hosted, or plan to host, the event
      Other countries which enter the games
      Countries which have entered the games but no longer do so
00 Host cities and year of games

The first edition of the event was the 1930 British Empire Games and eleven nations took part. The quadrennial schedule of the games was interrupted by World War II and the 1942 Games (set to be held in Montreal, Canada) and the 1946 Games were abandoned. The games were continued in 1950 and underwent a name change four years later with the first British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954. Over 1000 athletes participated in the 1958 Games as over thirty teams took part for the first time.

The event was briefly known as the British Commonwealth Games for the 1970 and 1974 editions and the 1978 Games, held in Edmonton, Canada, were the first to be held under the title of the "Commonwealth Games". The Edmonton event marked a new high as almost 1500 athletes from 46 countries took part.

Participation at the 1986 Games was affected by a boycott by some African and Caribbean nations in protest to the participation of New Zealand, following the All Blacks Rugby tour of Apartheid era South Africa in 1985, but the Games rebounded and continued to grow thereafter. The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia saw the sporting programme grow from 10 to 15 sports as team sports were allowed for the first time. Participation also reached new levels as over 3500 athletes represented 70 teams at the event. At the most recent Games (in Melbourne, Australia in 2006), over 4000 athletes took part in sporting competitions.

The three nations to have hosted the games the most number of times are Australia (4), Canada (4) and New Zealand (3). Furthermore, five editions have taken place in the countries within the United Kingdom (Scotland 2, England 2 and Wales 1). Two cities have held the games on multiple occasions: Auckland (1950 and 1990), and Edinburgh (1970 and 1986).

Games Year Host Dates Sports Events Nations Competitors Officials
British Empire Games
I 1930 Canada Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 16 – 23 August 6 59 11
II 1934 England London, England 4 – 11 August 6 68 16
III 1938 Australia Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 5 – 12 February 7 71 15
IV 1950 New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand 4 – 11 February 9 88 12
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
V 1954 Canada Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 30 July – 7 August 9 91 24
VI 1958 Wales Cardiff, Wales 18 – 26 July 9 94 36
VII 1962 Australia Perth, Western Australia, Australia 22 November – 1 December 9 104 35
VIII 1966 Jamaica Kingston, Jamaica 4 – 13 August 9 110 34
British Commonwealth Games
IX 1970 Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland 16 – 25 July 9 121 42
X 1974 New Zealand Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand 24 January – 2 February 9 121 38
Commonwealth Games
XI 1978 Canada Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 3 – 12 August 10 128 46
XII 1982 Australia Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 30 September — 9 October 10 142 46
XIII 1986 Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland 24 July – 2 August 10 163 26
XIV 1990 New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand 24 January – 3 February 10 204 55
XV 1994 Canada Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 18 – 28 August 10 217 63
XVI 1998 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 11 – 21 September 15 213 70
XVII 2002 England Manchester, England 25 July – 4 August 171 281 72
XVIII 2006 Australia Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 15 – 26 March 162 245 71
XIX 2010 India Delhi, India 3 – 14 October 17 272 71
XX 2014 Scotland Glasgow, Scotland 23 July – 3 August
XXI 2018 Australia Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia or
Sri Lanka Hambantota, Sri Lanka
To be decided

1Includes 3 team sports 2Includes 4 team sports

Approved sports

There are a total of 21 sports (with two multi-disciplinary sports) and a further 7 para-sports which are approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation. They are categorised into three types. Core sports must be included on each programme. A number of optional sports may be picked by the host nation, which may include some team sports such as basketball. Recognised sports are sports which have been approved by the CGF but which are deemed to need expansion; host nations may not pick these sports for their programme until the CGF's requirements are fulfilled.

Sport Type Years
Archery Optional 1982, 2010
Athletics Core 1930–present
Badminton Core 1966–present
Basketball Optional 2006
Billiards Recognised Never
Boxing Core 1930–present
Canoeing Recognised Never
Cricket Recognised 1998
Cycling Optional 1934–present
Diving Optional 1930–present
Fencing Recognised 1950–1970
Golf Recognised Never
(Artistic and Rhythmic)
Optional 1978, 1990–present
Handball Recognised 1930
Hockey Core 1998–present
Judo Optional 1990, 2002, 2014
Lawn bowls Core 1930–present (except 1966)
Life saving Recognised Never
Sport Type Years
Netball Core 1998–present
Rowing Optional 1930, 1938–62, 1986
Rugby sevens Core 1998–present
Sailing Recognised Never
Shooting Optional 1966, 1974–present
Softball Recognised Never
Squash Core 1998–present
Swimming Core 1930–present
Synchronized swimming Optional 1986, 2006
Table tennis Optional 2002–present
Taekwondo Optional Never
Tennis Optional 2010
Tenpin bowling Recognised 1998
Triathlon Optional 2002, 2006, 2014
Volleyball Recognised Never
Water polo Recognised 1950
Weightlifting Core 1950–present
Wrestling Optional 1930–present (except 1990,1998 and 2006)


Nations/dependencies that have competed

Only six teams have attended every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Australia has been the highest scoring team for ten games, England for seven and Canada for one.


1: Aden became South Arabia which left the Commonwealth in 1968.
2: Became Guyana in 1966.
3: Became Belize in 1973.
4: Became Sri Lanka in 1972.
5: Became Ghana in 1957.
6: Left the Commonwealth when handed over to China in 1997.
7: Ireland was represented as a team from the whole of Ireland in 1930, and from the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1934. The Irish Free State, renamed Ireland in 1937 (but also known by its name in the Irish Éire) formally left the Commonwealth when it declared that it was a Republic on 1 January 1949.
8: Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore federated as Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965.
9: Joined Canada in 1949.
10: Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia federated with Nyasaland from 1953 as Rhodesia and Nyasaland which lasted till 1963.
11: Divided into Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia in 1953.
12: Competed from 1958–1962 as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
13: Zanzibar and Tanganyika federated to form Tanzania in 1964.
14: Withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003.
15: Suspended from the Commonwealth and Games in 2009.

Commonwealth nations/dependencies/disputed territories yet to send teams

Very few Commonwealth dependencies and nations have yet to take part:

  • Tokelau was expected to take part in the 2010 Games in Delhi but did not do so.
  • Pitcairn Islands' tiny population (50 as of July 2009) would appear to prevent this British overseas territory from competing.
  • The British Indian Ocean Territory currently has no permanent population although there is a sizeable population who were born in the BIOT but currently live in Mauritius and the United Kingdom and so would be eligible to compete on birth criteria.
  • The lack of a permanent population would seem to prevent the British overseas territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and British Antarctic Territory, the New Zealand territory of Ross Dependency and the Australian external territories of Australian Antarctic Territory, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands and Heard Island and McDonald Islands from competing.
  • Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has made applications to the CGF to send teams.
  • Other states, territories and territorial autonomies with native populations within the Commonwealth that may be eligible include Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Rodrigues, Nevis and Zanzibar.
  • It is also conceivable that any future members of the Commonwealth such as applicants such as Sudan and Yemen may participate in future games. The Colony of Aden and Federation of South Arabia, precursors to modern Yemen have participated before in 1962 and in 1966. Sudan was an Anglo-Egyptian protectorate until independence in 1956. A referendum on independence of Southern Sudan is scheduled for early 2011 and a future independent Southern Sudan may also be eligible to join the Commonwealth.
  • Cornwall, represented by the Cornwall Commonwealth Games Association (CCGA), sent a bid for participation in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, however, their application was rejected by the CGF, who stated that the Constitutional status of Cornwall was not an issue that should be resolved through this medium. However, in 2010, the CCGA sought to launch a legal challenge to the decision of the CGF, stating that the Cornish bid of 2006 fulfilled the entire criterion of the CGF, and by rejecting the bid, the CGF had violated their own code, failing to follow their own criteria for participation. The Cornwall team will therefore seek competition in the 2014 games.

Notable competitors

Lawn bowler Willie Wood from Scotland is the first competitor to have competed in seven Commonwealth Games, from 1974 to 2002. Also, Greg Yelavich, a sports shooter from New Zealand, has won 12 medals in seven games from 1986 to 2010.

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