Saturday, 9 August 2014

Commonwealth, the Games and some history - part 1 of 3 ...

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.

c/o Maps of the World: Commonwealth

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. 

Glasgow, Scotland's 2014 Commonwealth logo

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.

The thistle - Scotland's national flower

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.

Glasgow, Scotland

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).

Bagpipes in the Highlands
Often referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’ … but officially being called the Commonwealth Games since 1978.

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.

c/o and Available from the Flag Shop

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 …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


  1. And weren't they great this year...really friendly. England came out on top, but for their small population, Australia did marvellously as always.

    Great post Hilary.

    See you in the Gold Coast, Australia for the next Commonwealth Games.


  2. Fascinating post, Hilary. I also enjoyed the photos you included. I didn't know the thistle was Scotland's national flower, how neat. Looking forward to part 2.

  3. Very interesting post, especially as I was there to watch it :)! (only a little)

  4. 'friendly games' - haha! :)

    really like that glasgow logo!

  5. Something new to learn as one so frequently does when reading your posts. You are a wealth of information. I did not know that's what commonwealth originated from. Hope the damage to your pier was not as terrible as it first seemed.

  6. I really enjoyed this post. I learned a few new things, which is always good! I'm Canadian, and I remember when our country was called the Dominion of Canada, and every July 1st was Dominion day. Now it's called Canada Day.

  7. Can't tell you how often my parents reminded us kids how fortunate we were to be part of the Commonwealth. The Dominion of Canada was a phrase I heard a lot as a child.

  8. Wonderful post. I especially enjoyed this years games and the opening was really great as well.

  9. A very interesting and inspiring post, Hilary. Lovely to read about something so positive and inspiring going on when there is so much suffering going on in the middle east. It did me good to read this!

  10. Between the Commonwealth games and the Olympics, top athletes have a great shot at competing on an international level for something prestigious.

  11. Interesting points about the Commonwealth Games. As a Canadian by choice, not birth, I liked that the countries are proud of being part of the British Commonwealth. Victoria, British Columbia retains much of that UK flavor.

  12. I too am a Canadian by choice and agree it is wonderful that countries enjoy being part of the British Commonwealth. BC still has the flavour, but not so much in Ontario although we do have a highland games which takes place not far from here but the big thing is the Oktoberfest.

  13. I didn't know the origin of the Olympics. That was very interesting, and spreading hope and pride is always a good thing! :)

  14. Hi Hilary. Interesting stuff. You do get a lot of Canadian readers don't you? I agree with what some have said; that BC seems more British than Ontario.
    I doubt if the world has seen any other former empires staying together as friends! The recent commemoration of the start of WW1 has reminded us of the great contribution to the war effort those countries made.
    Also: thanks for using the large print. Gentlemen of a certain age prefer that!
    I’m experimenting with a new idea of mentioning the music I’m listening to while posting or commenting. Right now it’s the late Etta James's wonderful version of Stormy Weather.
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  15. we've been very focussed on the games here in NZ. It's good to have this background on the Commonweath Hilary. I well remember those maps with all the pink coloured countries on them. Thank you.

  16. @ Denise – the Games seemed to be enjoyed by one and all – and I love the integration of all levels of sport – so the small nations can be included … and your sporting nation did pretty well too ..

    See you in the Gold Coast – that sounds like an excellent idea!

    @ Mason – many thanks and I’m glad the photos made sense. The thistle is a great flower isn’t it … and I enjoy artichokes – an offshoot!

    @ Gattina – yes you were here for the Games weren’t you .. but you were always out and about .. you had a flavour of the Commonwealth ..

    @ TWG – well they were friendly ... but the top athletes want to win and set standards for themselves … the Commonwealth Games are often good stepping stones for moving on a level. The Glasgow logo is certainly cheerful isn’t it!

    @ Inger – it seems the Commonwealth and the Games sort of sprung out of the break-up of Empire … but the wish to let smaller nations remain under a common umbrella – it seems to be working …
    The Pier – I expect they’re still getting on with the investigative work, while also thinking about rebuilding …

    @ Eva – good to meet you and thanks for coming over. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, especially as you are Canadian; I only really remember Dominion as a name from school, but then I am in the mother country as such. I’ve been in Canada on Canada Day about 17 years ago …

    @ Joylene – so interesting to read your parents reminding you how lucky you were to be a part of the Commonwealth – it’s stood the test of time and has given its nations other opportunities …

    @ Murees – yes South Africa had some good results from the Glasgow Games – so glad you enjoyed the Games and the ceremonies ..

    @ Val – isn’t the world in a mess I just sincerely hope a few leaders arise from somewhere and take control and bring some peace - however the Games have been inspirational and fun to enjoy …

    @ Alex – yes and then there’s your American Games, and Pan-American ones, as well as our European and World events – the Commonwealth opens those doors for some athletes who haven’t a chance, but can travel and compete in each of the C Games.

    Thanks everyone .. part 2 of the comments following – cheers from a stormy UK .. Hilary

  17. Part 2 of my comments reply:

    @ DG – it’s an interesting conglomerate of nations and seems to work – I’m glad you appreciate being Canadian and thus being a part of the Commonwealth itself. A lot of countries maintain their heritage somewhere along their historical journey … and I know Victoria does – having had one visit there …

    @ Jo – it’s interesting isn’t how people gravitate away from the UK, yet maintain their links and desire of history ..

    The Highland Games will resonate with a Scottish fervour – the Scots certainly opened up Canada through their explorers, surveyors and bridge builders, as well as stone masons for the buildings …

    Oktoberfest – is really of German origin – but we enjoy our beer-fests here too … and I went to plenty in South Africa!

    @ Lexa – I’m glad I put the snippet in about the Olympics – I wrote a few detailed posts about the origins and of the Para-Olympics and then about London 2012 – should you wish to look .. first one is 29 July 2012.

    Spreading hope and pride, as well as inspiration and appreciation are all good values to have ..

    @ Bazza – perhaps they saw the Commonwealth title and ‘romped on’ over?! But then there’s plenty of Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders too …

    Your thought about the Empire on its break-up being beneficial is a good one to be reminded about … certainly many countries played a huge role and helped western Europe and Britain win the first World War -

    Pleasure about the large print – I’ll remember that ... not seeing the blog on other machines I never know what it looks like – though am aware that others’ blogs don’t always work properly on my machine …

    Your idea about music is a good one – I’m terribly unmusical – but do know Etta James and certainly know Stormy Weather – very appropriate to the weather we’re having today … !

    @ Juliet – good to see you – congratulations on your new grand-daughter … glad you’ve been watching the Games too – New Zealand certainly had some stars and beat us to a few things.

    The pink across the globe – the Commonwealth spread … I too remember those pink countries or territories …

    It's great reading everyone's comments about the Commonwealth - many thanks .. cheers Hilary

  18. I didn't see any of the Commonwealth games. Nothing against the event, I'm sure it's wonderful to take part, I was just too busy with other things to have the TV on.

  19. Netball? I'll have to look that up. I didn't know about these games -- they sound great.

  20. Such wonderful information. I didn't know a thing about the Commonwealth games. You are a great educator my friend, Hilary!

  21. I learned so much today, Hilary. I do think sports are such a wonderful for countries to be friendly rivals. Wish we could settle our disputes with a good old rough and tumble rugby game.

  22. I've heard the word commonwealth my whole life but never really knew what it meant until now! I like how you relate it as well to the Olympics. Looking forward to more on your history posts!

  23. Very interesting Hilary, I didn't realise the Winter Olympics had started so recently! Last week mum and dad did a quiz night based on the commonwealth games, only it was just the tables were named after countries in the commonwealth and the quiz had nothing to do with it! They had lots of fun, though, and their table won.

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  25. All so VERY interesting… I can't wait for part 2!

    As always, I love learning from you. :)

  26. @ Patsy - I'm not surprised .. if I had a garden, an allotment etc I'd have been out and about at all times .. but I enjoyed what I watched and caught up on ... particularly the Squash, which I never get to see now I've stopped playing and moved back here ..

    @ Milo - yes Netball .. I used to play at school, though wasn't very good - not being tall ... it's a good team sport.

    @ Paula - lovely to see you here and am glad this post has given you a different look at life ..

    @ Lee - this was an interesting post to write - the history and the snippet about the First World War .. then how the Games came about ...

    I couldn't agree more - we really do need to get some people with some conciliatory ideas to rule those warring countries ... history is a great teacher or though provoker.

    @ Karen - many thanks .. I like tying things together and I learnt a lot writing the post ..

    @ Sarah - the Olympics only started in 1896 .. I wrote quite a few long posts in 2012 about our London Olympics and the Para-Olympics ... so the Winter Olympics became a separate event only thirty years later.

    What a fun idea - pity they didn't base the quiz on the Commonwealth Games too ... now you could make one up: wait for my next post! Those table quizzes are fun aren't they ... I'd imagine your parents would win quite often?!

    @ Holly - they're our Games I suppose .. while you have your inter-collegiate games, and pan-American games ... perhaps mostly Athletics and Swimming ones ...

    @ Morgan - glad you picked something up .. and enjoy part 2 ...

    Thanks so much for all your comments and thoughts - Hilary

  27. Four of the states in the U.S., including my state Pennsylvania, call themselves Commonwealths in their official name. But it has no legal designation compared to a state. We're just being "fancy" I guess! :)

  28. I had to read your 2 posts together to get the history behind the games. I love the idea behind them. And I love even more that countries who aren't technically a part of it can join. That's really what humanity it about, isn't it? No "us" vs. "them."

  29. @ Dianne - the reasons the four states still using Commonwealth in their designated official name - stems back to our Commonwealth of England (1649 - 1653/1660) during the Cromwell period and post Cromwell before Charles II granted to come back and take up the ruling reins as King - restoring a degree of order to England.

    The term would have been used and known by the emigrants from England ... and no doubt they coined the term when clarifying the States at the time of independence and beforehand.

    I watched a tv programme on Thomas Paine - the three pamphlets he wrote are still referred to this day ... Common Sense (1776); The Rights of Man (1791) and The Age of Reason (1793-94) ... and he was influential at the time of America becoming a republic ... Barack Obama quoted from Paine at his inauguration ..

    As set out in this blog post:

    I there's a TED talk on the Age of Reason - in April .. should be interesting ..

    @ Theresa - it is a good concept if we can educate sporting participants - they will open up the doors on their return home. It's certainly worked both as an organisation, and as these Games ..

    It is inspiring to let other countries join and benefit from their participation .. No "us" v "them" as you so rightly say ...

    Cheers to you both - and thanks for the informative useful comments - Hilary

  30. :) Is that really the queen dropping a photo bomb?

  31. Now I have a new appreciation for the Commonwealth Games. It's a wonderful opportunity for more athletes to compete.


  32. @ Suze - I think the hockey players waited for the Queen to walk past the background and snapped the shot - clever of them ...

    @ Julie - exactly a wider range of athletes can compete and have the opportunity to see other countries, and to meet fellow athletes from different cultures ...

    Cheers Hilary

  33. HOW DID I MISS THIS ONE? Hilary, I went through every comment and I'm not there. So, be patient with me as I seem to be reading backwards.

    I loved these words, "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."

    Actually, I kind of like the first title, "Friendly Games."

    Now that I've read the other two, I can really appreciate what this means, especially to the countries that are so small and can't compete in the Olympics. This allows all of us to know more about them and the athletes -- as you indicated in the Part 3.

    This was a wonderful series, Hilary and you did a great job of educating me about the Commonwealth Games:~)

  34. @ Sara - no worries I'm honoured you want to read .. backwards or forwards!

    I'm glad you picked that sentence up ... "The Commonwealth has a place today of brining hope to many and pride to small countries most of us have never heard of ...let us spread this friendliness" ... and the Commonwealth Games were acknowledged as being the 'Friendly Games' ...

    Thanks for letting me know that these three posts hold together and give an overview of the Games and the differences to the Olympics ..

    So pleased you came back and made such an important comment - thank you .. cheers Hilary