Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good … the English noun “commonwealth” in the sense meaning “public welfare; general good or advantage” dates from the 15th century.
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The Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) is a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, most of which were once part of the British Empire.
The Commonwealth was first mooted in 1884 by Lord Rosebery, when as Prime Minister, he was visiting Australia, to describe the changing British Empire.
An Australian born clergyman, the Rev John Astley Cooper, first proposed a “pan-Britannic” sporting contest in a letter to The Times in 1891 …
... this failed to catch the public imagination, though did impress Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who realised the potential of a multinational sporting event … thus the Olympics were born.
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Jan Smuts, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, presented a specific proposal in 1917 when he coined the term “the British Commonwealth of Nations”.
The model evolved as the Dominions (recognised as autonomous communities within the British Empire) gained more international prominence as a result of their participation and sacrifice in the First World War …
… resulting in full recognition as “autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth”. The Commonwealth has continued to evolve with the times.
The Olympic Games had been evolving and expanding … so that after WW1 the Olympics had a summer and winter Games. Thus the scene was set for other national conglomerates to hold their own games, opening the door to individuals from smaller nations who could compete.
The inaugural 1930 Commonwealth Games in Hamilton, Canada saw 400 athletes from 11 nations compete in six sports: Aquatics (Diving and Swimming), Athletics, Boxing, Lawn Bowls, Rowing and Wrestling (freestyle).
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Since 1994 team sports such as Hockey, Rugby Sevens and Netball have been added.
In 2002 Para-Athletes took part in ten events across five Para-Sports as part of the first fully inclusive Manchester Games.
The format is similar to the Olympic Games occurring every four years in between the Olympic cycle.
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Its purpose was obvious, to improve “goodwill and understanding” between the nations of the Empire … the Commonwealth has grasped the opportunity for multi-cultural democracy with its benefits of co-operation.
The Commonwealth does its best to unite its 53 members (71 different nations) and their 2.2 billion citizens behind the ideals of democracy and human rights, although sadly, some members fall short of those ambitions: …
… still it’s better those nations are not excluded and that the influence of our ideals are kept up front ... giving hope to the downtrodden.
Within the Commonwealth, all the nations are equal, and its egalitarian promise is so attractive that even countries that were never part of the British Empire have joined it … Mozambique and Rwanda ...
There are lessons in sport … team spirit, individual achievement, the coming together of new friends from different nations across the world – a melting pot of cultures … new worlds explored … are all available to live and learn from …
… that humbleness of many successful athletes to return whence they came to help their own … to grow and expand in sport, in thought and in the possibilities of new horizons … connecting the old world with the new …
The Commonwealth has a place today of bringing hope to many and pride to small countries most of us have never heard of … let us spread this friendliness.
This post gives some background information … including a snippet about World War One … part 2 will feature some of the highlights …
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