Wales and the Commonwealth Games

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A friendly games

Every four years, the Commonwealth Games provides the sportsmen and women of what was formerly the British Empire the chance to compete against each other in a range of individual and team pursuits. 

It has been known variously as the British Empire Games, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the British Commonwealth Games, before taking on its present title as the Commonwealth Games.  Over the years, the changes in its name have reflected the changes in the Commonwealth of Nations it represented.  With the increasing independence of the constituent nations, the terms Empire and Britain came to mean less and less to the Games and today, they stand as an association of different faiths, races, languages, cultures and traditions from across the world.

Often referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’, humanity, equality and destiny are the three core values of the Commonwealth Games Federation which encourages the development of the society and wellbeing of the people of the Commonwealth.

The development of the Games

The Games were first held in Hamilton, Ontario in 1930, after several years of discussion about the formation of such an event.  Only single competition sports were on the programme from 1930 up to and including the 1994 Games in Victoria.  The 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur saw the introduction of team sports with 50-over cricket, women’s netball, men’s and women’s hockey and men’s rugby 7s. Cricket was dropped from the programme for the 2002 Games and basketball was briefly included in the 2006 Games in Melbourne.  The 2010 Games in Delhi will feature hockey, netball and rugby 7s.

Disability Sports

Disabled athletes competed in the full Games programme for the fist time in 2002, taking part in a selection of full medal events for athletes with a disability. This continued in Melbourne in 2006 where disabled athletes took part in athletics, swimming, table tennis and powerlifting.

It was at the 2006 games in Melbourne that the Welsh team was captained by one of the world’s greatest paralympians, Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. Though Tanni missed out on a medal in the 800m T54 race, she led the team to a successful haul of three gold, five silver and eleven bronze medals.

Wales and the Games

Wales made their debut at the inaugural Games in Hamilton in 1930 and are one of only six nations to have taken part in every Games since then.  Between 1930 and 2006, the Welsh team has won 215 medals at the Commonwealth Games, including 49 gold.  Individuals such as Colin Jackson, Howard Winstone, Iwan Thomas, Lynn Davies, Kirsty Wade and Nicole Cooke have all represented Wales, won medals and broken records.

In Delhi, 2010, Wales will be captained by weightlifter Michaela Breeze. Michaela has won two Commonwealth gold medals and will be bowing out of the sport after the Games.

The Games and Wales

In 1958, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games visited Cardiff and the home-grown star was boxer Howard Winstone who was champion in the bantamweight division. Winstone’s was Wales’ only gold at the games but the team also won three silver and seven bronze medals, many of which were won in the boxing ring. Fencing, rowing and cycling saw the other Welsh successes.

A lasting legacy of the 1958 Games in Cardiff was the Empire Pool which was purpose-built for the event. At a cost of £700,000, the pool also marked Cardiff’s new status as the capital city of Wales and was one of the most modern and impressive buildings in the city. The pool was demolished in 1998 to make way for the Millennium Stadium complex which is now one of Wales’ most iconic landmarks.

The Commonwealth Games continues to be an important competition which allows Welsh sportsmen and women to represent their country on an international level.