Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and has taken place every four years since then.[1] The Commonwealth Games were known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974. It is the world's first multi-sport event which inducted equal number of women’s and men’s medal events and was implemented recently in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.[2]

Their creation was inspired by the Inter-Empire Championships, as a part of the Festival of Empire, which were held in London, United Kingdom in 1911. Melville Marks Robinson founded the games as the British Empire Games which were first hosted in Hamilton in 1930.[3] During the 20th and 21st centuries, the evolution of the games movement has resulted in several changes to the Commonwealth Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Commonwealth Winter Games for snow and ice sports for the commonwealth athletes,[4] the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games for commonwealth athletes with a disability[5] and the Commonwealth Youth Games for commonwealth athletes aged 14 to 18. The first edition of the winter games and paraplegic games were held in 1958 and 1962 respectively, with their last edition held in 1966 and 1974 respectively and the first youth games were held in 2000. The 1942 and 1946 Commonwealth Games were cancelled because of the second world war.[6]

The Commonwealth Games are overseen by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which also controls the sporting programme and selects the host cities. The games movement consists of international sports federations (IFs), Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs), and organising committees for each specific Commonwealth Games. There are several rituals and symbols, such as the Commonwealth Games flag and Queen's Baton, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Over 5,000 athletes compete at the Commonwealth Games in more than 15 different sports and more than 250 events. The first, second, and third-place finishers in each event receive Commonwealth Games medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively. Apart from many Olympic sports, the games also include some sports that are played predominantly in Commonwealth countries but which are not part of the Olympic programme, such as lawn bowls, netball and squash.[7]

Although there are currently 53 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, 71 teams currently participate in the Commonwealth Games, as a number of dependent territories compete under their own flags. The four Home Nations of the United KingdomEngland, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—also send separate teams.

Nineteen cities in nine countries (counting England, Wales, and Scotland separately) have hosted the event. Australia has hosted the Commonwealth Games five times (1938, 1962, 1982, 2006 and 2018); this is more times than any other nation. Two cities have hosted Commonwealth Games more than once: Auckland (1950, 1990) and Edinburgh (1970, 1986).

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

The most recent Commonwealth Games were held in Gold Coast from 4 to 15 April 2018. The next Commonwealth Games are to be held in Birmingham from 27 July to 7 August 2022.

History of the Games

A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by John Astley Cooper in 1900, 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 goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire". John Astley Cooper Committees were formed worldwide (e.g. Australia) and helped Pierre de Coubertin to get his international Olympic Games off the ground.[8] In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held at The Crystal Palace in London to celebrate the coronation of George V. As part of the Festival of the Empire, an Inter-Empire Championships were held in which teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom competed in athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming events.

Canada won the championships and was gifted a silver cup which was 2 feet 6 inch high and weighed 340 oz (9.6 kg). It was gifted by Lord Lonsdale. However, the 1911 championships were followed by the first world war which happened from 1914 to 1918. The organisers had lost hopes of hosting such sporting events for the empire athletes.

Melville Marks Robinson, who went to the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam to serve as the manager of the Canadian track and field team, strongly lobbied for the proposal of organising the first British Empire Games in Hamilton in 1930.

Editions of the Games

During the 20th century

British Empire Games

The 1930 British Empire Games were the first of what later become known as the Commonwealth Games, and were held in Hamilton, in the province of Ontario in Canada from August 16–23, 1930.

Eleven countries sent a total of 400 athletes to the Hamilton Games. The opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics took place at Civic Stadium. The participant nations were Australia, Bermuda, British Guyana, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. The Hamilton Games featured six sports: athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving and wrestling and ran at a cost of $97,973. Women competed in only the aquatic events.[9] Canadian triple jumper Gordon Smallacombe won the first ever gold medal in the history of the Games.[3]

Opening ceremony of the 1938 British Empire Games at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The 1934 British Empire Games were the second of what is now known as the Commonwealth Games, held in London, England. The host city was London, with the main venue at Wembley Park, although the track cycling events were in Manchester. The 1934 Games had originally been awarded to Johannesburg, but were given to London instead because of serious concerns about prejudice against black and Asian athletes in South Africa. Seventeen national teams took part, including the Irish Free State (the only Games in which they did take part) and new participants Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Southern Rhodesia and Trinidad and Tobago.[10]

The 1938 British Empire Games were the third British Empire Games, which were held in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. They were timed to coincide with Sydney's sesqui-centenary (150 years since the foundation of British settlement in Australia). Held in the southern hemisphere for the first time, the III Games opening ceremony took place at the famed Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 40,000 spectators. Fifteen nations participated down under at the Sydney Games involving a total of 464 athletes and 43 officials. Fiji and Ceylon made their debuts. Seven sports were featured in the Sydney Games – athletics, boxing, cycling, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving and wrestling.[11]

The 1950 British Empire Games were the fourth edition and was held in Auckland, New Zealand after a 12-year gap from the third edition of the games. The fourth games were originally awarded to Montreal, Canada and were to be held in 1942 but were cancelled due to the Second World War. The opening ceremony at Eden Park was attended by 40,000 spectators, while nearly 250,000 people attended the Auckland Games. Twelve countries sent a total of 590 athletes to Auckland. Malaya and Nigeria made their first appearances.[12]

British Empire and Commonwealth Games

Statue in Vancouver commemorating the "Miracle Mile" between Roger Bannister and John Landy

The fifth edition of the games, the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. These were the first games since the name change from British Empire Games took effect in 1952. The fifth edition of the Games placed Vancouver on a world stage and featured memorable sporting moments as well as outstanding entertainment, technical innovation and cultural events. The ‘Miracle Mile’, as it became known, saw both the gold medallist, Roger Bannister of England and silver medallist John Landy of Australia, run sub-four minute races in an event that was televised live across the world for the first time. Northern Rhodesia and Pakistan made their debuts and both performed well, winning eight and six medals respectively.[13]

3pence British stamp with theme of 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Cardiff, Wales

The 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Cardiff, Wales. The sixth edition of the games marked the largest sporting event ever held in Wales and it was the smallest country ever to host a British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Cardiff had to wait 12 years longer than originally scheduled to become host of the Games, as the 1946 event was cancelled because of the Second World War. The Cardiff Games introduced the Queen's Baton Relay, which has been conducted as a prelude to every British Empire and Commonwealth Games ever since. Thirty-five nations sent a total of 1,122 athletes and 228 officials to the Cardiff Games and 23 countries and dependencies won medals, including for the first time, Singapore, Ghana, Kenya and the Isle of Man.[14]

The 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Thirty-five countries sent a total of 863 athletes and 178 officials to Perth. Jersey was among the medal winners for the first time, while British Honduras, Dominica, Papua and New Guinea and St Lucia all made their inaugural Games appearances. Aden also competed by special invitation. Sarawak, North Borneo and Malaya competed for the last time before taking part in 1966 under the Malaysian flag. In addition, Rhodesia and Nyasaland competed in the Games as an entity for the first and only time.[15]

The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Kingston, Jamaica. This was the first time that the Games had been held outside the so-called White Dominions. Thirty-four nations (including South Arabia) competed in the Kingston Games sending a total of 1,316 athletes and officials.[16]

British Commonwealth Games

The 1970 British Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was the first time the name British Commonwealth Games was adopted, the first time metric units rather than imperial units were used in events, the first time the games were held in Scotland and also the first time that HM Queen Elizabeth II attended in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth.[17]

The 1974 British Commonwealth Games were held in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Games were officially named "the friendly games". Following the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the tenth games at Christchurch were the first multi-sport event to place the safety of participants and spectators as its uppermost requirement. Security guards surrounded the athlete’s village and there was an exceptionally high-profile police presence. Only 22 countries succeeded in winning medals from the total haul of 374 medals on offer, but first time winners included Western Samoa, Lesotho and Swaziland.[18]

Commonwealth Games

The 1978 Commonwealth Games were held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This event was the first to bear the current day name of the Commonwealth Games and also marked a new high as almost 1,500 athletes from 46 countries took part. They were boycotted by Nigeria in protest of New Zealand's sporting contacts with apartheid-era South Africa, as well as by Uganda in protest of alleged Canadian hostility towards the government of Idi Amin.[19][20]

Opening ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games at Brisbane, Australia

The 1982 Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Forty-six nations participated in the Brisbane Games with a new record total of 1,583 athletes and 571 officials. As hosts, Australia headed the medal table leading the way ahead of England, Canada, Scotland and New Zealand respectively. Zimbabwe made its first appearance at the Games, having earlier competed as Southern Rhodesia and as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.[21]

The 1986 Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland and were the second Games to be held in Edinburgh. Participation at the 1986 Games was affected by a boycott by 32 African, Asian and Caribbean nations in protest of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's refusal to condemn sporting contacts of apartheid era South Africa in 1985, but the Games rebounded and continued to grow thereafter. Twenty-six nations did attend the second Edinburgh Games and sent a total of 1,662 athletes and 461 officials.[22]

The 1990 Commonwealth Games were held in Auckland, New Zealand. It was the fourteenth Commonwealth Games, the third to be hosted by New Zealand and Auckland’s second. A new record of 55 nations participated in the second Auckland Games sending 2,826 athletes and officials.[23] Pakistan returned to the Commonwealth in 1989 after withdrawing in 1972, and competed in the 1990 Games after an absence of twenty years.[24]

The 1994 Commonwealth Games were held in Victoria, British Columbia, the fourth to take place in Canada. The games marked South Africa's return to the Commonwealth Games following the apartheid era, and over 30 years since the country last competed in the Games in 1958. Namibia made its Commonwealth Games debut. It was also Hong Kong's last appearance at the games before the transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China. Sixty-three nations sent 2,557 athletes and 914 officials.[25]

The 1998 Commonwealth Games were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For the first time in its 68-year history, the Commonwealth Games were held in Asia. The sixteenth games were also the first Games to feature team sports - an overwhelming success that added large numbers to both participant and TV audience numbers. A new record of 70 countries sent a total of 5,065 athletes and officials to the Kuala Lumpur Games. The top five countries in the medal standing were Australia, England, Canada, Malaysia and South Africa. Nauru also achieved an impressive haul of three gold medals. Cameroon, Mozambique and Kiribati debuted.[26]

During the 21st century

The 2002 Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, England. The 2002 Games were to be hosted in England to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth. In terms of sports and events, the 2002 Games were until the 2010 edition the largest Commonwealth Games in history featuring 281 events across 17 sports. The final medal tally was led by Australia, followed by host England and Canada. The 2002 Commonwealth Games had set a new benchmark for hosting the Commonwealth Games and for cities wishing to bid for them with a heavy emphasis on legacy.[27]

The 2006 Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The only difference between the 2006 games and the 2002 games was the absence of Zimbabwe, which withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations. For the first time in the history of the Games the Queen's Baton visited every single Commonwealth nation and territory taking part in the Games, a journey of 180,000 km (112,500 miles). Over 4000 athletes took part in the sporting competitions. Again the Top 3 on the medal table is Australia, followed by England and Canada.[28]

The 2010 Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, India. The Games cost $11 billion and are the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. It was the first time that the Commonwealth Games were held in India,also the first time that a Commonwealth Republic hosted the games and the second time they were held in Asia after Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998. A total of 6,081 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and dependencies competed in 21 sports and 272 events. The final medal tally was led by Australia. The host nation India achieved its best performance ever in any sporting event, finishing second overall.[29] Rwanda made its Games debut.[30]

The 2014 Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow, Scotland. It was the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland with around 4,950 athletes from 71 different nations and territories competing in 18 different sports, outranking the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, capital city of Scotland. Usain Bolt competed in the 4×100 metres relay of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and set a Commonwealth Games record with his teammates.[31] The Games received acclaim for their organisation, attendance, and the public enthusiasm of the people of Scotland, with Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper hailing them as "the standout games in the history of the movement".[32]

The 2018 Commonwealth Games were held in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, the fifth time Australia hosted the Games. There were an equal number of events for men and women, the first time in history that a major multi-sport event had equality in terms of events.[33][34]

The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham, England. They will be the third Commonwealth Games to be hosted in England following London 1934 and Manchester 2002.[35]

The three nations to have hosted the Commonwealth Games the most times are Australia (5), Canada (4) and New Zealand (3). Furthermore, six editions have taken place in the countries within the United Kingdom (Scotland (3), England (2) and Wales (1)), twice in Asia (Malaysia (1) and India (1)) and once in the Caribbean (Jamaica (1)).[1]

Paraplegic Games

The Commonwealth Paraplegic Games were an international, multi-sport event involving athletes with a disability from the Commonwealth countries. The event was sometimes referred to as the Paraplegic Empire Games and British Commonwealth Paraplegic Games. Athletes were generally those with spinal injuries or polio. The event was first held in 1962 and disestablished in 1974.[36] The Games were held in the country hosting the Commonwealth Games for able-bodied athletes. The countries that had hosted the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games were Australia, Jamaica, Scotland and New Zealand in 1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974 respectively. Six countries — Australia, England, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — had been represented at all Commonwealth Paraplegic Games. Australia and England had been the top-ranking nation two times each: 1962, 1974 and 1966, 1970 respectively.

Inclusion of Para-sports

Athletes with a disability were then first included in exhibition events at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia,[37] and, at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, they were included as full members of their national teams, making them the first fully inclusive international multi-sport games. This meant that results were included in the medal count.[38]

During the 2007 General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) at Colombo, Sri Lanka, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and CGF signed a co-operative agreement to ensure a formal institutional relationship between the two bodies and secure the future participation of elite athletes with a disability (EAD) in future Commonwealth Games.

IPC President Philip Craven said during the General Assembly:

“We look forward to working with CGF to develop the possibilities of athletes with a disability at the Commonwealth Games and within the Commonwealth. This partnership will help to galvanize Paralympic sports development in Commonwealth countries/territories and seek to create and promote greater opportunities in sport for athletes with a disability.”

— IPC President Sir Philip Craven

The co-operation agreement outlined the strong partnership between the IPC and the CGF. It recognized the IPC as the organization for overseeing the co-ordination and delivery of the Commonwealth Games EAD sports programme and committed both organizations to work together in supporting the growth of the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games Movements.[39]

Winter Games

St. Moritz, the venue for all three Games from 1958-66

The Commonwealth Winter Games were a multi-sport event comprising winter sports, last held in 1966. Three editions of the Games have been staged. The Winter Games were designed as a counterbalance to the Commonwealth Games, which focuses on summer sports, to accompany the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympic Games. The winter Games were founded by T.D. Richardson.[40] The 1958 Commonwealth Winter Games were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland and was the inaugural games for the winter edition.[41][42] The 1962 Games were also held in St. Moritz, complementing the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, and the 1966 event was held in St. Moritz as well, following which the idea was discontinued.[43]

Youth Games

The Commonwealth Youth Games are an international multi-sport event organized by the Commonwealth Games Federation. The games are held every four years with the current Commonwealth Games format. The Commonwealth Games Federation discussed the idea of a Millennium Commonwealth Youth Games in 1997. In 1998 the concept was agreed on for the purpose of providing a Commonwealth multi-sport event for young people born in the calendar year 1986 or later. The first version was held in Edinburgh, Scotland from 10 to 14 August 2000. The age limitation of the athletes is 14 to 18.[44]

Commonwealth Games Federation

Headquarters of the CGF at the Commonwealth House (centre) in London

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the international organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games, and is the foremost authority in matters relating to the games.[45] The Commonwealth House in London, United Kingdom hosts the headquarters of CGF.[46] The Commonwealth House also hosts the headquarters of the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.[47][48]

The Commonwealth Games Movement is made of three major elements:

  • International Federations (IFs) are the governing bodies that supervise a sport at an international level. For example, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) is the international governing body for basketball.[49]
  • Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) represent and regulate the Commonwealth Games Movement within each country. For example, the Commonwealth Games England (CGE) is the CGA of England. There are currently 70 CGAs recognised by the CGF.[50]
  • Organising Committees for the Commonwealth Games (OCCWGs) are temporary committees responsible for the organisation of each Commonwealth Games. OCCWGs are dissolved after each Games once the final report is delivered to the CGF.

English is the official language of the Commonwealth. The other language used at each Commonwealth Games is the language of the host country (or languages, if a country has more than one official language apart from English). Every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these two (or more) languages, or the main depending on whether the host country is an English speaking country.

Queen's Baton Relay

The Queen's Baton Relay, is a relay around the world held prior to the beginning of the Commonwealth Games. The Baton carries a message from the Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The Relay traditionally begins at Buckingham Palace in London as a part of the city's Commonwealth Day festivities. The Queen entrusts the baton to the first relay runner. At the Opening Ceremony of the Games, the final relay runner hands the baton back to the Queen or her representative, who reads the message aloud to officially open the Games. The Queen's Baton Relay is similar to the Olympic Torch Relay.[51]

The Relay was introduced at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales. Up until, and including, the 1994 Games, the Relay only went through England and the host nation. The Relay for the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was the first to travel to other nations of the Commonwealth. The Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay was the longest in Commonwealth Games history. Covering 230,000 km over 388 days, the Baton made its way through the six Commonwealth regions of Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Oceania. For the first time, the Queen's Baton was presented at the Commonwealth Youth Games during its sixth edition in 2017 which were held in Nassau, Bahamas.[52]



Opening ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games at Melbourne

Various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. This ceremony takes place before the events have occurred. The ceremony typically starts with the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem. The flag of the Commonwealth Games Federation, flag of the last hosting nation and the next hosting nation are also hosted during the opening ceremony. The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance and theatre representative of its culture. The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Delhi Games reportedly cost $70 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.[53]

After the artistic portion of the ceremony, the athletes parade into the stadium grouped by nation. The last hosting nation is traditionally the first nation to enter. Nations then enter the stadium alphabetical or continental wise with the host country's athletes being the last to enter. Speeches are given, formally opening the Games. Finally, the Queen's Baton is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the final baton carrier, often a successful Commonwealth athlete from the host nation, who hands it over to the Head of the Commonwealth or their representative.


Closing ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games at Delhi

The closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games takes place after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes who enter together, without any national distinction. The president of the organizing committee and the CGF president make their closing speeches and the Games are officially closed. The CGF president also speaks about the conduct of the games. The mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers the CGF flag to the president of the CGF, who then passes it on to the mayor of the city hosting the next Commonwealth Games. The next host nation then also briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theater representative of its culture. Many great artists and singers had performed at the ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games.

At the closing ceremony of every Commonwealth Games the CGF President makes an award and presents a trophy to one athlete who has competed with particular distinction and honour both in terms of athletic performance and overall contribution to his or her team. Athletes are nominated by their Commonwealth Games Association at the end of the final day of competition and the winner is selected by a panel comprising the CGF President and representatives from each of the six Commonwealth Regions. The ‘David Dixon Award’ as it is called was introduced in Manchester 2002, after the late David Dixon, former Honorary Secretary of the CGF, in honour of his monumental contribution to Commonwealth sport for many years.[54]

Medal presentation

A medal ceremony is held after each event is concluded. The winner, second and third-place competitors or teams stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals. After the medals are given out by a CGF member, the national flags of the three medallists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medallist's country plays. Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, as they aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag-bearers.

List of Commonwealth Games

Edition Year Host City & Host Nation Opened by Start Date End Date Sports Events Nations Competitors Top Nation Ref
Inter-Empire Championships
1911 United Kingdom London, United Kingdom George V 12 May 1 June 494Unknown  Canada
British Empire Games
I 1930 Canada Hamilton, Canada Viscount Willingdon 16 August 23 August 65911400  England
II 1934 England London, England 4 August 11 August 66816500  England
III 1938 Australia Sydney, Australia Lord Wakehurst 5 February 12 February 77115464  Australia
1942 Canada Montreal, Canada Cancelled due to the Second World War[55]
1946 Wales Cardiff, Wales
IV 1950 New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand Sir Bernard Freyberg 4 February 11 February 98812590  Australia
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
V 1954 Canada Vancouver, Canada Earl Alexander of Tunis 30 July 7 August 99124662  England
VI 1958 Wales Cardiff, Wales Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 18 July 26 July 994361122  England
VII 1962 Australia Perth, Australia 22 November 1 December 910435863  Australia
VIII 1966 Jamaica Kingston, Jamaica 4 August 13 August 9110341050  England
British Commonwealth Games
IX 1970 Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 16 July 25 July 9121421383  Australia
X 1974 New Zealand Christchurch, New Zealand 24 January 2 February 9121381276  Australia
Commonwealth Games
XI 1978 Canada Edmonton, Canada Elizabeth II 3 August 12 August 10128461474  Canada
XII 1982 Australia Brisbane, Australia Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 30 September 9 October 10142461583  Australia
XIII 1986 Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland Elizabeth II 24 July 2 August 10163261662  England
XIV 1990 New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand Prince Edward 24 January 3 February 10204552073  Australia
XV 1994 Canada Victoria, Canada Elizabeth II 18 August 28 August 10217632557  Australia
XVI 1998 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tuanku Jaafar 11 September 21 September 15213703633  Australia
XVII 2002 England Manchester, England Elizabeth II 25 July 4 August 17281723679  Australia
XVIII 2006 Australia Melbourne, Australia 15 March 26 March 16245714049  Australia
XIX 2010 India Delhi, India Pratibha Patil 3 October 14 October 17272714352  Australia
XX 2014 Scotland Glasgow, Scotland Elizabeth II 23 July 3 August 17261714947  England
XXI 2018 Australia Gold Coast, Australia Charles, Prince of Wales 4 April 15 April 19275714426  Australia
XXII 2022 England Birmingham, England TBA 27 July 7 August 18
XXIII 2026 Election in 2019 TBA

Note: The 1911 Inter-Empire Championships held in London is seen as a precursor to the modern Commonwealth Games, but is not normally considered an official edition of the Games themselves. Also, the United Kingdom competed as one country, unlike the Commonwealth Games today when they compete as England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Canada topped the medal table by winning 4 events.[56]

All-time medal table

Below is a Top 10 all-time medal table.

1 Australia (AUS)9327747092415
2 England (ENG)7147157152144
3 Canada (CAN)4845165551555
4 India (IND)181175148504
5 New Zealand (NZL)158219277654
6 South Africa (RSA)130123136389
7 Scotland (SCO)119132200451
8 Kenya (KEN)857577237
9 Nigeria (NGR)707591236
10 Wales (WAL)6798141306
Totals (10 nations)2940290230498891

List of Commonwealth sports

There are a total of 22 sports (with three multi-disciplinary sports) and a further seven para-sports which are approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation. 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.

Sport Type Years
Archery (Recurve) Optional 1982, 2010
Athletics Core 1930–present
Para Athletics Core 1994,2002–present[57]
Badminton Core 1966–present
Basketball 3x3 Optional 2006, 2018, 2022
Boxing Core 1930–present
Cricket Optional 1998
Cycling (Mountain Bike) Optional[58] 2002-2006, 2014-present
Cycling (Para Track) Optional[58] 2014–present
Cycling (Road) Core[58] 1938–present
Cycling (Track) Optional[58] 1934–present
Diving Optional 1930–present
Hockey Core 1998–present
Gymnastics (Artistic) Core[58] 1978, 1990–present
Gymnastics (Rhythmic) Optional 1978, 1990–present
Judo Core[58] 1990, 2002, 2014,starting in 2022 as core sport
Lawn bowls Core 1930–1962, 1970–present
Sport Type Years
Para Lawn bowls Core 1994,2002,2014–present[57]
Netball (Women) Core 1998–present
Powerlifting Core 2002–present[57]
Rugby sevens Core 1998–present
Shooting Optional 1966, 1974–2018
Squash Core 1998–present
Swimming Core 1930–present
Para Swimming Core 2002–present[57]
Table tennis Core[58] 2002–present
Para Table tennis Optional[58] 2002–2010, 2018-present
Triathlon Core[58] 2002- 2006, 2014-present
Volleyball (beach) Optional 2018
Weightlifting Core 1950–present
Wheelchair Basketball Optional[58] Never
Wrestling (Freestyle) Core[58] 1930–1986, 1994, 2002, 2010–present

In 2015, the Commonwealth Games Federation agreed large changes to the programme which increased the number of core sports, whilst removing a number of optionals, those removed are listed below.[59]

Sport Type Years
Canoeing Optional Never[60]
Rowing Optional 1930, 1938–1962, 1986
Sailing Optional Never
Softball Optional Never
Synchronised swimming Optional 1986–2006
Sport Type Years
Taekwondo Optional Never
Tennis Optional 2010
Ten-Pin Bowling Optional 1998
Wrestling (Greco-Roman) Optional 2010

Recognised sports are sports which have been approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation but which are deemed to need expansion; host nations may not pick these sports for their programme until the Federation's requirements are fulfilled.[61]

Sport Type Years
Billiards Recognised Never
Fencing Recognised 1950–1970
Association Football Recognised Never
Golf Recognised Never
Handball Recognised Never
Sport Type Years
Life saving Recognised Never
Rugby league Recognised Never
Volleyball (indoor) Recognised Never
Water Polo Recognised 1950


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

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

NationYears participated
 Antigua and Barbuda1966–1970, 1978, 1994–
 Bahamas1954–1970, 1978–1982, 1990–
 Bangladesh1978, 1990–
 Barbados1954–1982, 1990–
 Belize41978, 1994–
 Bermuda1930–1938, 1954–1982, 1990–
 Botswana1974, 1982–
 British Guiana31930–1938, 1954–1962
 British Honduras41962–1966
 British Virgin Islands1990–
 Brunei Darussalam1990–
 Canada1911, 1930–
 Cayman Islands1978–
 Ceylon51938–1950, 1958–1970
 Cook Islands1974–1978, 1986–
 Cyprus1978–1982, 1990–
 Dominica1958–1962, 1970, 1994–
 Falkland Islands1982–
 Fiji61938, 1954–1986, 1998–2006, 2014–
 Gambia71970–1982, 1990–2010, 2018-
 Ghana81958–1982, 1990–
 Gold Coast81954
 Grenada1970–1982, 1998–
 Guyana31966–1970, 1978–1982, 1990–
 Hong Kong101934, 1954–1962, 1970–1994
 India1934–1938, 1954–1958, 1966–1982, 1990–
Ireland11 121930
 Irish Free State111934
 Isle of Man1958–
 Jamaica1934, 1954–1982, 1990–
 Kenya1954–1982, 1990–
 Malaya141950, 1958–1962
 Malaysia1966–1982, 1990–
 Malta1958–1962, 1970, 1982–
NationYears participated
 Mauritius1958–1982, 1990–
 New Zealand1930–
 Nigeria1950–1958, 1966–1974, 1982, 1990–1994, 2002–
 Norfolk Island1986–
North Borneo141958–1962
 Northern Ireland11 171934–1938, 1954–
 Northern Rhodesia191954–1958
 Pakistan1954–1970, 1990–
 Papua New Guinea1962–1982, 1990–
 Rhodesia and Nyasaland181962
 Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla21978
 Saint Helena201982, 1998–
 Saint Kitts and Nevis21990–
 Saint Lucia51962, 1970, 1978, 1994–
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1958, 1966–1978, 1994–
 Sierra Leone1958, 1966–1970, 1978, 1990–
 Solomon Islands1982, 1990–
 South Africa1911–1958, 1994–
 South Arabia11966
 Southern Rhodesia191934–1958
 Sri Lanka1974–1982, 1990–
 Tanzania1966–1982, 1990–
 Tonga1974, 1982, 1990–
 Trinidad and Tobago1934–1982, 1990–
 Turks and Caicos Islands1978, 1998–
 Uganda1954–1974, 1982, 1990–
 United Kingdom1911 24
 Western Samoa211974–1994
 Zambia131970–1982, 1990–
 Zimbabwe13 231982, 1990–2002
  1. ^ Aden later joined South Arabia in 1963 and departed the Commonwealth in 1968.
  2. ^ Anguilla was completely separated from Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla in 1980 and remaining Saint Kitts and Nevis became independent from the United Kingdom in 1983.
  3. ^ British Guiana was renamed Guyana in 1966.
  4. ^ British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1973.
  5. ^ Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972.
  6. ^ Fiji was re-suspended from the Commonwealth and Games in 2009.[62] Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth was lifted in time for the 2014 Games following democratic elections in March, 2014.
  7. ^ The Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2013, but rejoined on 8 February 2018; The Gambia was readmitted to the Commonwealth Games Federation in March 2018.
  8. ^ Gold Coast (British colony) was renamed Ghana in 1957.
  9. ^ Including neighbouring Islands.
  10. ^ Hong Kong was never a Commonwealth member but was a territory of a Commonwealth country; it ceased to be in the Commonwealth when the territory was handed over to China in 1997.
  11. ^ Ireland was represented as a single team from the whole of the island in 1930, and by two teams, representing the Irish Free State, and Northern Ireland in 1934. The Irish Free State was officially renamed Éire in 1937 but did not participate in the 1938 Games, and withdrew from the Commonwealth when it unilaterally declared that it was the Republic of Ireland on 18 April 1948.
  12. ^ Contemporary illustrations show Green Flag used for the Irish team.
  13. ^ Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe competed in 1962 as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
  14. ^ Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore federated as Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965.
  15. ^ The Maldives withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2016.[63]
  16. ^ Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.
  17. ^ The Ulster Banner was the flag of the former Government of Northern Ireland only between 1953 and 1972, but the flag has been regarded as flag of Northern Ireland since 1924 among unionists and loyalists. The Ulster Banner is the sporting flag of Northern Ireland in other events as the FIFA World Cup and in the FIVB Volleyball World Championship.
  18. ^ Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia federated with Nyasaland in 1953 as Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which dissolved at the end of 1963.
  19. ^ Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia competed separately in 1954 and 1958 while both were part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
  20. ^ Under the name of "Saint Helena" in the Commonwealth Games.[64] Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha were dependencies of Saint Helena, so the territory was officially called "Saint Helena and Dependencies" until 2009. Saint Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha became equal parts of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in 2009.
  21. ^ Western Samoa was renamed Samoa in 1997.
  22. ^ Zanzibar and Tanganyika federated to form Tanzania in 1964.
  23. ^ Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003.
  24. ^ United Kingdom were the host of the Inter-Empire Championships in 1911. This event was held before the 1st edition of the Games held in Hamilton, Canada in 1930.

Commonwealth nations yet to send teams

Very few Commonwealth dependencies and nations have yet to take part:[65][66]


Host city contract

The 1934 British Empire Games, originally awarded in 1930 to Johannesburg was moved to London after South Africa's pre-apartheid government refused to allow nonwhite participants.[68]

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally awarded to Durban on 2 September 2015, at the CGF General Assembly in Auckland.[69] It was reported in February 2017 that Durban may be unable to host the games due to financial constraints. On 13 March 2017, the CGF stripped Durban of their rights to host and reopened the bidding process for the 2022 games.[70] Many cities from Australia, Canada, England and Malaysia expressed interest to host the games. However, the CGF received only one official bid and that was from Birmingham, England.[71] On 21 December 2017, Birmingham was awarded for the 2022 Games as Durban's replacement host.[72]


Nigeria boycotted the 1978 Commonwealth Games at Edmonton in protest of New Zealand's sporting contacts with apartheid-era South Africa. Uganda also stayed away, in protest of alleged Canadian hostility towards the government of Idi Amin.[19][73]

Countries boycotting the 1986 Games are shaded red

During the 1986 Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh, a majority of the Commonwealth nations staged a boycott, so that the Games appeared to be a whites-only event. Thirty two of the eligible fifty nine countries—largely African, Asian and Caribbean states—stayed away because of the Thatcher government's policy of keeping Britain's sporting links with apartheid South Africa in preference to participating in the general sporting boycott of that country. Consequently, Edinburgh 1986 witnessed the lowest number of athletes since Auckland 1950.[74] The boycotting nations were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Belize, Cyprus, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Grenada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.[75] Bermuda was a particularly late withdrawal, as its athletes appeared in the opening ceremony and in the opening day of competition before the Bermuda Olympic Association decided to formally withdraw.[76]


The estimated cost of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi were US$11 billion, according to Business Today magazine.[77] The initial total budget estimated by the Indian Olympic Association in 2003 was US$250 million. In 2010, however, the official total budget soon escalated to an estimated US$1.8 billion, a figure which excluded non-sports-related infrastructure development.[78] The 2010 Commonwealth Games are reportedly the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever.[79]

Notable competitors

Lawn bowler Willie Wood from Scotland was the first competitor to have competed in seven Commonwealth Games, from 1974 to 2002, a record equalled in 2014 by Isle of Man cyclist Andrew Roche.[80]

They have both been surpassed by David Calvert of Northern Ireland who in 2018 attended his 11th games.[81]

Greg Yelavich, a sports shooter from New Zealand, has won 12 medals in seven games from 1986 to 2010.

Lawn Bowler Robert Weale has represented Wales in 8 Commonwealth Games, 1986–2014, winning 2 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze.

Nauruan weightlifter Marcus Stephen won twelve medals at the Games between 1990 and 2002, of which seven gold, and was elected President of Nauru in 2007. His performance has helped place Nauru (the smallest independent state in the Commonwealth, at 21 km2 and with a population of fewer than 9,400 in 2011) in nineteenth place on the all-time Commonwealth Games medal table.

Ian Thorpe, Australian swimmer (now retired), has won 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals and 1 silver medal. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he won 4 gold medals. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, he won 6 gold medals and 1 silver medal.[82]

Chad le Clos, South Africa’s most decorated swimmer, has won 17 medals from just three Commonwealth Games (2010, 2014 & 2018), seven of which are gold. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, he won three golds, a silver and a bronze.[83]

See also


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