Tom Peck on the Commonwealth Games 2014: So, just what is the point of the Games, other than to remind us all of the embarrassment of the empire?

It is in many respects a glorious sporting spectacle undergone for noble reasons

“And special mention must go to Chris Walker from Gibraltar, who at 47 years old is the triathlon’s oldest competitor, and by some margin,” the commentator proudly informed us over shots of the hot sun shimmering on the lake at Strathclyde Country Park.

He was never mentioned again, and indeed it may not have been him the cameras cut to minutes later, splashing about with the fitful energy of a shipwrecked pirate as the same commentator now pondered over “whether anyone’s ever been lapped in a two-lap race before”.

But whoever it was should take some comfort in the anonymity that comes from being among a great abundance of questionable sporting talent making up the substantial numbers at Glasgow 2014.

At the Tollcross Pool yesterday, the crowd went suitably crazy for Ann Wacuka, a Kenyan para-swimmer who finished almost a full minute after everyone else in her minute-long heat, but appeared thrilled and knackered in equal measure as her swimming-capped head finally popped out of the water, not least because, as viewers had already been informed, “all six competitors in this race will go through to the final”.

It might seem ungenerous to mock para-sports, but given their top protagonists and their governing bodies consistently state they will be taken seriously as sports once people have the courage to criticise the athletes, this column is prepared to suggest that there may be one or two competitors here who are not quite the elite sports people the ticket holders have paid to watch.

It’s legitimate to ask quite what is the point of the Commonwealth Games now. When it began in 1930, as the inter-Empire Championships, its purpose was obvious, to improve “goodwill and understanding” between the nations of the Empire – a noble and necessary endeavour after Africans and Indians had been forced to turn their guns on one another in the First World War, for reasons that were never fully explained to them.

In 2014, this is less of a problem. There are many who find the games more than a little embarrassing, them being the clearest living visible remnant of empire. Quite what is the need for this quadrennial reminder of the shame of it all?

As the never-ending parade of unimaginably tiny nations entered Celtic Park on Thursday evening, it was slightly breathtaking to wonder at the sheer determination of Britain’s 19th-century Empire builders.

“And here comes Nauru,” informed bonnie Hazel Irvine. “A tiny spit of sand with a population of eight, 4,000 miles from anywhere, and yet we STILL bothered to take it over. Just look at their happy faces.

“And look, it’s Njababaville. A birdwatcher’s paradise, just nine hours’ flight from Hawaii. Look out for them in the lawn bowls events. The whole team’s called Jones, and the coach too. In fact, everyone on the entire island can trace their roots back to the same 18th-century Welsh sea captain and rapist.”

Still, it is in many respects a glorious sporting spectacle nonetheless, undertaken for the noblest reasons, and mostly by men and women uncorrupted by the advantages of astronomical wealth. And the weather’s helped.

The urge is to look at the purity and nobility of it all, and see it in stark contrast to the wanton avarice of football. But they’re not so different. We’re still at it – empire building, that is, only with modern methods.

If you find yourself wondering quite why the pacific island of Nieue, population 1,300, has a Union Jack in the corner of its flag, its for precisely the same reason that there is also a brand of Japanese tomato juice with the Manchester United logo on.

Just as Britain’s 19th-century empire has come to Glasgow to hide its historic moneymaking intentions behind a smokescreen of sub-par sport, our  21st-century sporting colonialists are off around the world, extending their reach, expanding their markets, boosting their trade via a host of insipid friendlies neither the managers nor the, in many cases knackered, players want any part of.

A hundred years ago, sport was the seemingly pleasant distraction, the circus. Now it’s the battering ram.

This column happened to ask Alan Shearer, shortly before the World Cup, as he stepped off a super-heated super-humid indoor  five-a-side pitch, built as a PR stunt to mimic the conditions in Manaus, if he’d ever played in such unbearable conditions before.

“Yes, once,” he said. “In Kuala Lumpur, in the Premier League Asia Trophy, in the middle of July. It was horrific.”

So no, we don’t mind the Kenyans, Malaysians and Pacific Islanders swimming in our lake and running round our track, lifting our weights and hitting our shuttlecocks, as long as they buy our replica Man Utd kits when they get home.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower