When the Queen, who died last year, walked to the coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey some 70 years ago, the British Empire was still intact. This was expressed, among other things, in the titles that identified the monarch not only as Queen of the United Kingdom, but also as head of state in many colonies, but also in some independent states such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan. South Africa and Ceylon. Today, when heir to the throne Charles takes over that legacy as king, crowned on May 6th, there isn’t much left of the splendor of old-world empire.
Although the position of the superpower in the world is not so bad either. While many former colonies no longer wish to have anything to do with the British monarchy and – like Barbados recently – seek salvation in a republican form of government, the Commonwealth of Nations, established in 1931, remains hugely popular. The well-known union of states under London’s leadership is now home to 56 countries, including countries such as Mozambique and Gabon, which were never part of the British Empire. This means that 29.4 percent of the world’s population, about two billion people, live in Commonwealth countries.
sport rather than politics
While the organization and competence of the Commonwealth is rather informal and loose and plays little role in world politics, this is different in sport. In fact, the Commonwealth Games, which brings together national teams from 72 countries, parts of the world and territories, is the third largest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympics and the Asian Games. Even smaller islands like Guernsey, Niue and the Cook Islands can participate in this way. In addition to most of the Olympic disciplines, the sports program also includes some sports that are common only in Commonwealth countries. In 1998, for example, rugby, hockey, cricket, netball, squash and water polo were added to the program along with athletics, badminton, bowls (boccia), gymnastics, boxing, cycling, archery, weightlifting, swimming and wrestling.
The British Empire Games, first held in August 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, are considered one of the first Commonwealth Games. At that time, 11 countries with about 400 athletes were eligible to participate. In fact, the Commonwealth Games were born a long time ago – in 1911. The occasion for the athletics event at London’s Crystal Palace, which opened on May 12 under the title “Champions of the Empire”, was the ceremonial coronation of King George V. He was at Westminster Abbey, London, on the 22nd of June.
In addition to the United Kingdom, only four sub-nations of the British Empire—Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa—were eligible to participate, and only those were members of the white population group. Five consecutive events were held (100, 220, 880 and 1000 yards and over 120 yards hurdles), two events in swimming (100, 1000 yards), boxing and heavyweight (middleweight) wrestling. There were also two team competitions. Among the most famous participants of the time were Stanley Bacon (England), Harold Hardwicke (Australia), Malcolm Champion (New Zealand), John Lindsay Tait and George Hodgson (both Canada). Canadian runner Frank Halbhaus caused an upset. He won two double golds in the 100 and 220 yards.
Overall, the North Americans performed unexpectedly well at the Inter-Empire Championships and won the nation’s ranking (excluding the team events). This drew criticism from the English press, who were hoping their team would do better. Even the Auckland Star suspected that the Empire Games were unworthy of the title, especially since only four nations of the World Empire were allowed to participate besides Great Britain. Negative comments as well as the much-discussed question about the meaning of the games did not seem to allow the event to be repeated.
Upcoming matches in Melbourne
And so it had to pass nearly two decades before the first British Empire Games took place in 1930 as a purely sporting event. The success and strong attendance at the Games prompted the House of Representatives of Great Britain, the Dominion and the Colonies to hold the event every four years between the Olympic Games. The name was changed to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1952, and the sporting event has been known as the Commonwealth Games since 1978. The next games will be held between March 17-29, 2026 in Victoria, Australia. Although not in direct honor of King Charles III.
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