Why we should love the Commonwealth Games

They might not be as glamorous as the Olympics, but they offer so many fantastic opportunities to athletes and their fans

Share

As a pure sporting event, the Commonwealth Games – which will shortly be kicking off in Glasgow – do matter.

First of all, they provide a very high level of competition. With the opportunity to divide the British Isles into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the total number of athletes able to compete rises considerably; far greater that if we competed as Great Britain.

For me personally the Games were part of the beginning, middle and end of my career, so they mean a lot. For some athletes, they are a stepping stone to greater glory; for others they are the pinnacle of their careers.

The Commonwealth Games certainly give us the chance to develop younger athletes, and it’s a huge opportunity for smaller countries who would not be able to qualify in such numbers for the Olympics or Paralympics.

The Games are also a chance to watch events that usually receive less mainstream media coverage, like wrestling or netball – the latter a competition in which the venue for the final had to be changed because of the huge demand for tickets.

Meanwhile, the athletes’ village can provide an important historical lesson if we take it in the most positive way, about the connections and shared experiences that we have had around the globe. Some of that history is not terribly comfortable, and the political debate on the need for the Commonwealth is more complex.

READ MORE
Dear Alex Salmond, you must speak out against homophobia in the Commonwealth

An important question is how much can a sporting event change the world. Should we expect it to? I always said that it wasn’t the responsibility of London 2012 to change people’s attitude towards disabled people. It is simply not possible for an organising committee to have that influence.

But do such events allow for a different conversation about, say, disability, or gay rights? Yes. London 2012 changed attitudes. And the Commonwealth Games likewise are an opportunity through soft politics to keep the conversation going, even if it progresses slower than many would like.

Including events for disabled athletes on a full-medal status, as in Glasgow, means that many countries have to start thinking about sport provision for disabled people, and it may encourage different thinking on education too. In 2002 there were 10 events for disabled athletes and 20 nations sent athletes. In 2014 we are still on 20 countries but there are 300 athletes in 22 events. Improving that is the next step.

Baroness Grey-Thompson is a parliamentarian and former Paralympic wheelchair athlete

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

General election 2015: Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence