The 2018 Commonwealth Games begin on the Gold Coast in April. (Supplied: 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games)
If this were to be the Commonwealth Games’ swansong on the Gold Coast in a few weeks, would we really care?
Some see it as an outdated symbol of British imperialism, or just a training run for the Olympics.
In saying that, it is a training run that Australia traditionally dominates, although England did finish on top at Glasgow in 2014 off the back of its heavy investment into Olympic sports in the lead-up to London.
But overall, Australia leads the all-time medal tally with 852 gold medals, England has won 669 and Canada 469. It drops away dramatically after that.
|5||New Zealand (NZL)||20||144||204||262||610|
|6||South Africa (RSA)||12||117||112||123||352|
How the Games will play out
The Commonwealth Games generally follows a certain script.
Without the USA, China or Russia, Australia will dominate the swimming. England was more competitive at Glasgow but it is hard to mount an argument that it is a world-class field.
Kyle Chalmers is among those targeting a big showing in the pool, where Australia typically dominates.
(AAP Image: Dean Lewins)
Australia goes well too in athletics. The likes of Jamaica add interest in the sprint events, but there will be no Usain Bolt on the Gold Coast. Kenya is always formidable in middle and long-distance running.
Cycling? It looks like Australia will be strong again, having won 96 of the 180 gold medals on offer since cycling was introduced at London in 1934. England will again be the main rival in the velodrome and on the road.
Overall, the Commonwealth Games are basically Australia versus England with a bit of competition from Canada and some other countries strong in specific disciplines.
There is no doubt all this winning is good for the morale of the country, but is it worth the huge investment for a few key moments and fair portion of mediocre competition?
The men’s basketball will have just one team ranked in the world’s top 20 — Australia.
Where did it all start?
In the beginning, the Commonwealth Games was an idea written in an article in British newspaper The Times by John Astley Copper in 1891. He proposed a “universal British Festival covering all varieties of physical and mental culture”.
Commonwealth Games hosts:
- 2018: Gold Coast, Australia
- 2014: Glasgow, Scotland
- 2010: Delhi, India
- 2006: Melbourne, Australia
- 2002: Manchester, England
- 1998: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 1994: Victoria, Canada
- 1990: Auckland, New Zealand
- 1986: Edinburgh, Scotland
- 1982: Brisbane, Australia
- 1978: Edmonton, Canada
It took several decades before it came to fruition. Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, was the first host city of the inaugural British Empire Games in 1930.
Eleven countries sent a total of 400 athletes to the Hamilton Games. Women competed in only the swimming events.
The participant nations were Australia, Bermuda, British Guyana, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
The Hamilton Games featured just six sports — athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rowing, swimming and diving and wrestling.
It has now grown to become a huge financial and logistical challenge for the host city.
Costs rise, appeal declines
At the Glasgow Games, there were 17 sports, 71 nations and 4,950 athletes.
While Glasgow was viewed as a success, interest in hosting the event has diminished to the point the original host of the 2022 Games, Durban, pulled out because of the huge cost.
In today’s fragmented media landscape and crowded sporting market, the attraction of hosting such an event is not what it once was.
But for all the criticisms, there is the good stuff.
Ask a netballer what they think of the Commonwealth Games and they would say it is one of the pinnacles of their sport. The top 12 ranked countries in the world are the 12 teams competing on the Gold Coast.
It is a great learning experience for athletes in dealing with the distractions of living in a village environment, similar to the Olympics.
Caitlin Bassett and Australia’s Diamonds netball team are seeking back-to-back gold medals. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
And it brings together 71 nations celebrating peace, democracy and equality.
Whatever the future of the Commonwealth Games, the Gold Coast will no doubt be a spectacle, it will most likely do a great job of hosting it and Australia will feel good about itself after winning another truckload of medals.