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Are the Games still a good watch?

New Zealand’s Joelle King (second from left) and Amanda Landers-Murphy (second from right) beat England’s Sarah-Jane Perry (r) and Alison Waters (l) for the women’s squash doubles gold medal. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

How relevant are the Commonwealth Games?

That is the burning question posed after every edition of the ‘Friendly Games’.

The 2022 Birmingham games were a hit with Brits and visiting fans alike.

Events were well patronised with often large and vociferous crowds who, if they weren’t cheering on their contestants, certainly got behind other competitors, usually the beloved underdog and anyone but that Aussie!!

Cyclist Aaron Gate won his fourth Games gold medal in the road race.

The Commonwealth Games are often unfairly compared with the pinnacle of sport, the Olympics, and doing so takes something away from the unique nature of what started as a celebration of sporting prowess as the British Empire Games in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada.

Of course, the Games have progressed significantly from the 11 countries and 400 competitors lined up for seven sports 92 years ago to the 72 nations, 5054 athletes, and 280 events in 20 sports in Birmingham.

Many of this year’s competitors will never get the chance to compete in the Olympics so the Commonwealth Games remain an opportunity to test themselves against world-class athletes in many of the sports.

The likes of bowls, squash, netball, and cricket, which are heavily Commonwealth-influenced sports, are never likely to be included in the Olympics, so for those athletes, apart from their respective world championships, the Commonwealth Games represent the pinnacle of their sports.

For small countries like Niue, Nauru, Malta, and Dominica their rare medal success, although bronze and silver, will be proudly saluted in their homeland, just like we Kiwis laud the success of our team, coming home with a record 20 gold medals, and 49 medals in total – second only to the 55 medals won in Auckland in 1990.

But where does this year’s haul sit with previous efforts?

When one breaks down the results, our 20 gold medals were won in four sports – cycling [10], swimming [five], squash [three], and athletics [two].

Kiwis Tom Walsh [l] and Jacko Gill made it a gold-silver finish in the men’s shot put.
Cycling’s Aaron ‘Golden’ Gate’s record-breaking four golds, and Ellesse Andrews’ triple gold, and the double golds by Lewis Clareburt in the pool, and Joelle King and Paul Coll on the squash court, are all admirable achievements, as are the other five gold medallists – shot putter Tom Walsh, high jumper Hamish Kerr, and swimmers Andy Jeffcoat, Dame Sophie Pascoe, and Joshua Willmer.

There was a good spread of minor medals throughout the sports, but there were some disappointing efforts, which could be seen as abject failures.

Bowls, a traditional Kiwi strength, brought home only three bronze medals, the rugby sevens campaigns, and netball will be seen as flops by many, even though all three teams won bronze.

NZ Hockey can expect to face some tough questions after the men failed to make it out of pool play and the women finished fourth.

So where does this edition of the Games sit for me?

Right up there, but for me the 15 golds won over eight sports at the Gold Coast in 2018, and the 17, also over eight sports, at Auckland in 1990, just edge 2018.

Maybe I’m swayed though because of the friendlier viewing times in 1990 and 2018.

But back to my initial question – are the Commonwealth Games still relevant?

Definitely, for an old codger like me, and they brought some respite from the doom and gloom surrounding another underperforming national team in Johannesburg.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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