Introduction to the Games
Since their inception in 1930, the Commonwealth Games have always been true to a simple philosophy.
They should be
"merrier and less stern and will substitute the stimulus of a novel adventure for the pressure of international rivalry".
The idea of a
"periodical gathering in a festival and contest of industry, culture and sport"
had been proposed in 1891 by John Astley Cooper, but it was not until 1911 that a multi-sport competition was organised at Crystal Palace to help celebrate the coronation of King George V.
Athletics, boxing, swimming and wrestling decided the destiny of a trophy donated by Lord Lonsdale, and Canada were the winners.
"Lasting good will be the outcome of our participation,"
concluded Australian official Richard Coombes.
In the days following the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, officials of the new Achilles Athletic Club organised a match between a combined British Empire team and the United States of America.
This proved so popular that many were locked outside and, when it was repeated in 1924, Chelsea Football Club's home of Stamford Bridge was used.
Canadian official Norton Hervey Crow called for a more ambitious competition.
In 1928, Commonwealth sports officials met during the Amsterdam Olympics. Leading the way was Melville Marks Robinson, known to all as "Bobby". He was manager of the Canadian team and doubled as a reporter for the Hamilton Spectator newspaper.
There was some dissatisfaction about how the Games in Amsterdam had been organised, and in particular how amateur regulations had been applied.
The group met again in London shortly afterwards where a Canadian proposal for “Empire Games” was formally accepted.
Hamilton, described as "the athletic centre of Canada", was to host the Games in 1930.
Edward Wentworth Beatty, the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, took a leading role in one of the committees organising the Games and also gave more tangible help.
Teams arriving on the west coast were transported to the Games by his railway.
The intrepid band of sportsmen and sportswomen in August 1930 came from 11 nations and territories. The visiting teams arrived after long and exhausting journeys.
Funds were short and Scottish music hall star Harry Lauder personally subsidised the travel of the Scottish team.
The general rules stipulated that the Games were open "to any member of the Commonwealth of Nations" and that "amateur athletes only are allowed to participate".
"Should the amateur standing of any contestant be challenged, the matter will be considered by a special appeal committee," it was ruled.
The "merrier and less stern" philosophy was taken to heart by spectators after New Zealand's Allan Elliott was disqualified after two false starts in the 100 yards.
The crowd was said to have made so much noise that it was impossible to continue the racing until Elliott was allowed back.
In complete contrast to the present day Games, five of the six sports contested were open only to men. Women only competed in swimming and diving.
Twenty-four-year-old swimmer Gladys Pidgeon was New Zealand's only female team member.
Her participation was conditional on the presence of her mother as her chaperone, which came at her own expense.
English swimmer Joyce Cooper was the most successful individual competitor as she returned home with four gold medals.
After each victory she stood on a podium. This was a three-tiered dais so that the winners could be
"seen by spectators and properly recognised".
Among the spectators was International Olympic Committee President Count Henri de Baillet-Latour, who incorporated the medal podium into the Olympic Games after seeing it in Hamilton.
In response to worried IOC members, Baillet-Latour concluded that fears the Commonwealth Games would
"seriously prejudice the Olympiad in 1932 were quite groundless".
Hamilton's success assured the future of the Commonwealth Games. Despite the interruption of the Second World War, the event had almost tripled in size by the time of the 1958 Games in Cardiff.
In 1970, the Games were televised in colour for the first time, adopted metric distances and numbered Queen Elizabeth II among enthusiastic supporters.
Prince Philip coined the phrase
"the Friendly Games"
- a nickname which stuck.
The Games have grown to embrace 72 nations and territories, including some which were never part of the old British Empire. They have been attracted by an organisation which has "an enduring commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law".