Stuart Weir is one of the fine coterie of writers who contribute to @runblogrun. I have been fortunate to work with some of the finest writers in sports writing, and continue to be both astounded and fortunate for them allowing me my eccentricities.
When I first met Stuart, I believed he was a Scotsman, but I had erred. His well developed sense of humor (humour for those in colonies, former colonies, or protectorates of Her Highness), keeps me smiling. His writing helps me consider other views, and when I read his writing, I learn something new.
Stuart Weir and Justin Lagat are covering the Commonwealth Games for @runblogrun.
We hope that you enjoy the coverage and sense the respect that we have for the Friendly Games, as they are known. I recall a Runners World Booklet of the month, from around 1974, about the late Jack Foster, the famous Kiwi marathoner (held the Masters marathon record for nearly 3 decades), who took silver in CG 1974 in ChristChurch, at the ripe old age of 42, in the marathon. He noted that he won his silver on his mother’s 25th wedding anniversary. When a journalist looked at Mr. Foster, with some confusion, Mr. Foster just smiled and said, ” You figure it out.”
Well, that was what my son, Adam, calls is his father having a “digression”.
Before launching into the Commonwealth Games as an athletics event, I thought I should give you some background. According to Wikipedia, The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly called the British Commonwealth), but usually known as simply the Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.
The Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia is the 21st Games with the first one having taken place in 1930. There are 71 countries participating in 2018 from India with its 1.3 billion population to Niue (an island in the South Pacific) which at the last count had1,624 residents. At the Olympics there is one UK team called Great Britain but in the Commonwealth Games England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man all have separate teams. With teams from North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania the Games have a real global feel.
As well as track and field the 2018 Games program includes badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, cycling, diving, gymnastics, (field) hockey, bowls, netball, power/weight lifting, rugby, shooting, squash, swimming, table-tennis and triathlon. In fact the Games are much bigger that the sign I saw outside the residences: “athlete’s village” suggested!
The youngest competitor among the 4,600 athletes is Anna Hursey, aged 11, a Welsh table-tennis player and she won her first game. Robert Pitcairn, a Canadian shooter, has seen it all before – he is 79.
Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin said at the opening ceremony: “The Commonwealth is now more relevant than ever before. We have a great opportunity to be the global leader in demonstrating how we can successfully thrive together, as both a deeply diverse yet unified family of 2.4 billion people. It is this unbreakable Commonwealth connection that enables us to have a positive impact on each other and on the world we share.” Well, she would think that, wouldn’t she?
The Commonwealth Games is sometimes referred to as the friendly games as most athletes speech English as a first or second language, making Communication easier than at an Olympics.
The Games were opened by Prince Charles as they were in Delhi 2010 where I remember seeing a limo with a sign on it “Prince Charles’ car”. Very thoughtful, I felt, as you would not have wanted a terrorist to attack the wrong car!
The standard of competition is mixed with, the favourite for the women’s 100 metres, double Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson (Jamaica). On the other hand that Britain has seven teams means that athletes from the Isle of Man, Jersey etc, who would never make the GB Olympic team, have the opportunity to compete in a Global event. At the last Games, I remember an athlete telling me that the best part of the Games was that before the race he took off his tracksuit and a volunteer put it in a box with his water bottle and there it was waiting for him at the end of the race. Routine practice for elite athletes but a first time highlight for a small island athlete.
A unique feature of the Commonwealth Games since 2002 has been the integration of disability sport into the programme with the 2018 Games hosting up to 300 para-sport athletes in 38 medal events across seven sports.
The Games have been underway for three days now with the 8 day athletics programme starting tomorrow (Sunday).