Mike McRoberts: Why we should care about the Commonwealth Games

OPINION: At Glasgow four years ago, the world's fastest man - Usain Bolt - reportedly described the Commonwealth Games event as "a bit shit".

Amid the ensuing storm of publicity, he denied making the comment, but the Times newspaper remained adamant it was true.

One thing is certain - the Commonwealth Games aren't the Olympics.

The competition isn't as intense, and the heights, speed or results achieved often fall short of Olympic or world record standard.

But to assume that makes the Commonwealth Games an inferior sporting and entertainment product would be wrong.

As a kid growing up in Christchurch in the 1970's, I still remember the excitement of the city hosting the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Coming just two years after the Munich Olympics, where 11 Israeli team members were taken hostage and eventually shot, the Christchurch Games quickly became known as the "Friendly Games".

They were the perfect antidote for a sporting world still bruised and battered from Munich.

I've felt that friendly nature of the Commonwealth Games several times now. In a nod to the former British Empire, it feels like each hosting city delights in inviting everyone into the front room for tea and bickies.

 

The Gold Coast is no exception. The largest sporting event Australia has hosted this decade is a showcase for inclusiveness.

Para athletes like our own Sophie Pascoe will march in tonight's opening ceremony simply as Commonwealth Games athletes. Their events run during the main programme of competition and the medals on offer, exactly the same.

For the first time in the history of major multi-sport events, there will be an equal number of men's and women's events. It's been 20 years since our men's sevens team won the first Commonwealth Games gold medal on offer for that sport and here on the Gold Coast, our world champion women's team will finally have an opportunity to do the same.

For sports like lawn bowls, squash and netball, there is no higher accolade than wearing the silver fern at the Commonwealth Games every four years.

And at time when our professional athletes seem to be getting less and less accessible, the largely amateur nature of our Commonwealth Games team makes them feel very close.

They're our neighbours, our boss' daughter or cousin's schoolmate, and when they triumph, it feels like we all do.

And we love that as Kiwis. That's why the Commonwealth Games still matter.

Mike McRoberts is 'captain' of the Newshub team at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Check back tomorrow for Ross Karl's rebuttal.