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The importance of athletics (and a few nations) to future Commonwealth Games

By Chris Lewis - posted Monday, 1 August 2022

The 2022 Commonwealth Games (CG) begins on 28 July at Birmingham, England as the second biggest of all multi-sports competitions behind the Olympic Games (OG) with an expected 70+ participant nations.

However, the 2022 CG comes at a time when its future as a successful multi-sport games is under much greater pressure given the difficulty of attracting host cities/nations to fund and organise the games.

At its 2021 General Assembly (11 October), the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) responded.


Unveiling its new Strategic Roadmap, which would allow future hosts and sports to be flexible, innovative and creative in delivering future games in terms of the 15 sports selected and infrastructure planning, only athletics and swimming were now compulsory sports given their historical place on the programme since 1930 and based on their universality, participation, broadcasting, spectator interest.

As noted by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Dame Louise Martin at the time, there is a hope that "more countries" or "multiple countries" will be interested in hosting a CG at this time when "Clearly, the size, scale and costs of the Games are key concerns for any potential host".

In terms of athletics, the CG still has considerable importance as a major event normally held in a non-OG or WC athletics year, although 2022 sees the CG following the WC because the covid pandemic postponed setting the 2020 OG and 2021 WC each back a year.

But certain nations will prove crucial for any future CG success, notably the UK countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada which have hosted every CG since 1930, with the only exceptions being Jamaica 1966, Malaysia 1998 and India 2010.

While one can hope that other Commonwealth countries can step up in future years, I believe that the past regular hosts will remain much more likely to provide the necessary facilities, organisational skills and sporting interest to host future CG, especially for major sports like athletics.

Take India, an emerging superpower amongst Commonwealth countries in terms of the size of their economy.


The 2010 CG in Delhi India, estimated in 2012 to have cost $US4.6 billion (excluding the cost of a new airport terminal), was dogged by controversy including construction accidents, the exploitation of workers, poor facilities, health and security concerns, corruption, and public money being wasted given immense poverty in the country.

Even with a smaller scale CG, it remains to be seen whether India can alleviate such concerns.

It also remains to be seen whether India will develop a sporting culture that will draw adequate public interest in the games.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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