The concept of a sporting competition to bring together the nations of the British Empire had been talked about since the 1890s. Reverend Astley Cooper is credited with first proposing the idea in an 1891 article in The Times newspaper 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 the end the concept was beaten to the punch by the modern Olympic Games, which held its first Games in 1896, and the idea of an Empire Games was put on hold.
In 1911, an Inter-Empire Championships was held in London as part of the ‘Festival of Empire’ to celebrate the coronation of King George V. While not being an ‘official’ Commonwealth Games, it is seen as the forerunner, with teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom competing in Boxing, Wrestling, Swimming and Athletics. A silver cup standing 2ft 6 inches high was donated by Lord Lonsdale to be awarded to the winning country, which was Canada.
The concept of a ‘Commonwealth Games’ then lay dormant for several years until M.M ‘Bobby’ Robinson, a journalist and member of the Canadian Olympic Committee at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, raised the idea to his counterparts from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with the idea of hosting the first Games in Hamilton.
The Commonwealth Games
The first Commonwealth Games were held in Hamilton in 1930 and were a remarkable feat of organisation. The decision to hold the Games was only finally confirmed in February 1930, yet by August of that same year all the preparations had been completed. Scotland was one of 11 nations to compete in these first Games , the others being Australia, Bermuda, British Guyana, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales.
Since 1930, the Games have been held every four years (except for 1942 and 1946 due to World War II) and the event has seen many changes, not least in its name. From 1930 to 1950 the Games were known as the British Empire Games, from 1954 until 1966 the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and from 1970 to 1974 they took on the title of British Commonwealth Games. It was the 1978 Games in Edmonton that saw this unique, world class, multi-sport event change its name to the Commonwealth Games. The event has always had a special place in the hearts of the Scottish nation, witnessed so clearly at the Edinburgh Games in 1970 where the welcome given by the Scottish people first gave rise to the description of ‘the Friendly Games’.
Up until 1998, only individual sports were included on the programme. However the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur saw the introduction of team sports, with nations taking part in Cricket (50 over game), Hockey (men and women), Netball (women) and Rugby 7s (men). Hockey, Netball and Rugby 7s are now core sports on the programme.
The 2002 Games in Manchester saw for the first time at any multi-sport event in the world, a limited number of full medal events for elite athletes with a disability (EAD), in a fully inclusive sports programme. This has continued ever since with the number of events growing substantially and Gold Coast 2018 hosting the largest Para-Sport programme in the history of the Games with 38 disciplines across seven sports.
The sports programme has continued to evolve, with Melbourne 2006 seeing Basketball make its Games debut, whilst Tennis and women’s Wrestling were introduced in Delhi 2010. Beach Volleyball made its debut at Gold Coast 2018.
The Gold Coast 2018 Games were the first to have an equal number of medal events for men and women.
Edinburgh became the first city to hold the Games twice, in 1970 and 1986, and also became the first city to host the Commonwealth Youth Games. In 2000, CGS established the ‘Millennium’ Commonwealth Youth Games with the backing of the CGF and it is now held every four years.
Scotland hosted the Games for a third time when Glasgow welcomed athletes and officials to the XXth Commonwealth Games which was held from 23rd July – 3rd August 2014. Team Scotland celebrated their most successful Games in history, winning a total of 53 medals.
The Commonwealth Games is the only occasion where Scotland gets to compete in a multi-sport event as a nation in its own right and is one of only six countries to have competed in every Commonwealth Games since their inception in Hamilton in 1930. Represented by 15 athletes participating in six sports at those first Games, winning a very creditable 10 medals, Scotland have gone on to win medals at every Games since.