Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Relevance of Commonwealth Games doubtful

The Queen officially opens the event in Glasgow
The Queen officially opens the event in Glasgow

Although there are 53 developed and 'developing' countries in the Commonwealth – comprising two billion people, almost a third of the world's population – there are 71 nations represented at the Glasgow Games. This is because some countries, like the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, are made up of a number of territories or dependencies.

Ireland, the Republic, of course, is not represented at the sporting event, although it was not always so. At the 1930 British Empire Games, the first staging of what is now the Commonwealth Games, a single team represented the entire island of Ireland. Since 1934 Northern Ireland has been represented by its own team but that year also saw competitors from the Irish Free State.

The South had no representation in 1938 and by the time of the next Games, held in 1950 because of World War II, it had excluded itself from taking part.

Is it regrettable, though, that the Republic is absent? Granted, there must be Irish athletes who ponder that participation would be a good opportunity to get competitive experience. However, the reality is that, politically, association with the Commonwealth has never been much of a runner in the Republic.

The real question is: are the Commonwealth Games relevant any more? They certainly don't have the spectator grandeur of the Olympics or the fever of the football World Cup.

While there continues to be a proud and well-loved tradition of Commonwealth camaraderie, it struggles to attract top athletes and competes for public attention against many other events.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor of Sport Ian Culpan questions whether the Games have lost their way, caught up in the need to focus solely on sporting performance. Professor Culpan is a member of the FutureSport Trust which has submitted a proposal arguing the Games need to change direction to focus on developing the nations through sport.

This means developing health and education and communities, culminating every four years in a competitive sport. In short, has the Commonwealth Games become merely a restricted international sporting event? Discuss.

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