Brief history of the Commonwealth Games

  • 21/03/2018
John Walker
John Walker contests an 1500m heat at Auckland 1990. Photo credit: Photosport

The Commonwealth Games, as they are now known, were first contested in 1930 at Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and have taken place every four years since, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1946 during World War II.

Until 1950, they were known as the British Empire Games. From 1954-66, they were the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and in 1970 and 1974, they were the British Commonwealth Games.

But they can trace their origins back to 1911, when the Inter-Empire Championships, attended by Australasia, Canada, England and South Africa, were held to celebrate the coronation of King George V.

New Zealand is one of only six countries that have attended every official Games since inception – the others are Australia, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales.

New Zealand has also hosted the event three times – Auckland in 1950, Christchurch in 1974 and Auckland again in 1990.

Over the history of the Games, New Zealand ranks fourth on the total medal tally with 609, behind Australia (2218), England (2008) and Canada (1473). We rank fifth in terms of gold medals won with 144, behind Australia (852), England (669), Canada (469) and India (155).

New Zealand’s most successful Games were at Auckland in 1990, where we won 58 medals, 17 of them gold. In Glasgow four years ago, we captured 45 medals and 14 gold.

Athletics is our most successful sport with 130 medals and 35 golds, followed by cycling (97/22) and swimming (81/16).

This is the fifth time Australia has hosted the Games – the last occasion was 2006 at Melbourne.

Unlike the Olympics, which are often the subject of political interference, the Commonwealth Games are a friendlier affair that have largely escaped sideline controversy.

South Africa was banned from the Games from 1958-94 due to its apartheid policy and Nigeria boycotted the 1978 Edmonton Games, protesting New Zealand’s sporting contacts with South Africa.