The 2018 edition of the Commonwealth Games has just been completed. While not as popular and high-ranked as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games has been around since 1930 and take place every four years.
While previously viewed as the Games for England and its former colonies, the event now hosts new members like Rwanda which were never colonized by the British.
The Commonwealth now accepts membership from nations which:
● Have had a constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member;
● Comply with Commonwealth values, principles and priorities as set out in the Harere Declaration;
● Accept Commonwealth norms and conventions.
This 11-day event, with participants from 71 countries, served as a reminder of the power of sports as a tool for social change and also as a testing ground for countries and athletes to identify gaps in their preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.
For example, the Games served as a wake-up call for powerhouse sprinting nation Jamaica.
Headlines over the last few days about Jamaica’s performance include one from Times Live which reads, “Life after Bolt: new-look Jamaica fail Commonwealth test”. Gulfnews.com was as scorching with their headline of “Jamaican sprinters leave Gold Coast without a gold”.
If in a competition without major competitors such as the United States, Jamaica has not won a sprint event then there are questions to be asked of that country’s sprinting programme.
A Twitter post by the world record holder in the men’s 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay shows that Jamaicans are concerned. In his post Bolt asked, “Did I retire too soon? Hmmm.”
Jamaica is not the only country facing a new reality if problems of poor performance are not addressed.
Canada has a similar problem. In 2014 they secured 6 medals in rhythmic gymnastics but at last week’s event they managed only 2. A similar situation for wrestling where this year, the medal haul was 2 less than the last go around.
As a tool for social change the Commonwealth Games shone for athletes with disabilities. There have often been talk of inclusion but these Games put into action what has only peripherally happened in some other major sporting events.
The Olympic Games deals with the matter of inclusivity by hosting the Paralympic Games a few weeks after the Summer and Winter Games. The Commonwealth Games went beyond this by having a fully integrated Paralympic programme and by including a high-profile transgender athlete.
According to the Centre for Disease Control in the United States, “disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society, and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires.”
As such, a major sporting event ensuring that athletes with disabilities share the same stage is praiseworthy move in the right direction. With help from sporting commentators and analysts at the Games, information was provided to viewers as to types of disabilities as well as the effect of each specific disability on an athlete’s ability to participate in certain sporting activities.
Attendees at the Games were able to view participation of able-bodied and lesser able- bodied athletes within the same programme.
With a viewership of approximately 1.5 billion people, the Commonwealth Games managed to help the cause for the disabled on a global scale. This is in itself is victory for the Games which some outside the Commonwealth of nations see as irrelevant because many big nations in Europe and the Americas are not included. It is a victory as the event:
● Provided a major platform for athletes who are often sidelined to feel respected and to be a part of something larger than their immediate community,
● Brought global awareness to specific disabilities; their limitations and possibilities,
● Showcased inclusion at the highest level.
The showmanship, the camaraderie, the disappointments and the surprises of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games of 2018 are part and parcel of major sporting events.
An opportunity for competitive athletes to test their prowess mid-way between the last and the upcoming Olympics is crucial.
That along with taking the lead on showing how inclusiveness can and should be undertaken on a global sporting stage makes the question of the relevance of the Commonwealth Games almost irrelevant.
The writer is owner and operator of Forrest Jackson Properties, a real estate company based in Kigali, Rwanda
The views expressed in this article are of the author.