The initial concept of the “Commonwealth Games” can be credited to the Rev. Astly Cooper of England, who in July 1891 in a magazine “Greater Britain” and later, on 31st October 1891 in “The Times” suggested a “Pan-Britannic-Pan Anglican Contest and Festival … every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the Empire”.
Although the first Games was not to take place for nearly forty years it is fitting to make reference to this chapter in it’s history.
Mr Richard Coombs, for thirty-five years President of the Amateur Athletic Union of Australia, later on, both before and after the “Festival of Empire” in 1911, continually drew attention to the value of an “Empire Sports” gathering.
Mention must also be made of the so-called “Inter-Empire Championships” which took place in 1911 as part of the “Festival of Empire” held in London to mark the coronation of King George V Teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom competed against each other in Athletics, Boxing, Swimming and Wrestling.
All such plans were overshadowed by the first world war. Nevertheless, in 1920 after the Olympic Games in Antwerp and those in 1924 in Paris, track and field events between British Empire and the USA were held at Queen’s Club and Stamford Bridge, in London.
It was not until the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam that the first practical steps were taken to organise the British Empire Games. It was Mr M. M. (Bobby) Robinson of Canada who called a meeting of representatives of all Empire countries, and made the proposal that the British Empire Games should be held in Canada in 1930. These Games in Hamilton, Canada, are regarded as the true starting point of the present series of Commonwealth Games.
The name, British Empire Games, was changed in 1950 to British Empire and Commonwealth Games. In 1966, it was again changed to British Commonwealth Games and on the 27th January 1974, a General Assembly decision, reflecting the growth in Commonwealth membership, changed the name to Commonwealth Games and the international body became The Commonwealth Games Federation.
The opening of the Games is symbolised by the raising of the Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag. The first ceremonial flag was presented by the British Empire Games Association of Canada after the first Games in Hamilton in 1930.
The new ceremonial flag was presented by the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Association of Canada for use at the Games in Vancouver in 1954. This incorporated the symbol of the Games on a white background.
With the change of name in 1966 to British Commonwealth Games the former flags were no longer appropriate. Subsequently the British Commonwealth Games Association of Canada presented a new flat bearing the symbol of the crown encircled by a continuous chain of 35 links representing the number of countries taking part, with the letters B.C.G., in gold on a solid dark blue field.
The ceremonial flags of the period 1954-1966 and from 1970 on, were presented to the Chairman of the British Commonwealth Games Federation by Colonel Jack Davies, President of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada.
The ceremonial flag is hoisted at the Opening of the Games, and flies continuously night and day during the period of the Games until it is lowered at the Closing ceremony. It is then handed to the Chief Citizen of the Host City for safe-keeping until it is sent by him four years later to the Chief-Citizen of the next host city to stage the Games.
For the VI British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, 1958, Her Majesty The Queen handed over at Buckingham Palace, a specially designed baton, containing a message from herself to the carried by a series of runners to Cardiff, and to be handed over at the Opening Ceremony and there read to all those assembled in the stadium. Six hundred and sixty four runners carried the baton.
This relay, conveying The Queen’s message, is now an integral part of the Games.
On 20th July 1952, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games adopted a symbol for the Games, and requested all its affiliated Associations to ensure that it be used only in connection with the Games and not for commercial purposes.
The symbol consisted of a Crown with “B.E & C.G” below these being in gold and surrounded by a gold linked chain superimposed on a dark blue circular background, itself edged with gold. The working “B.E & C.G” now reads “C.G”. This symbol was first used in connection with the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Vancouver 1954.
The Earl of Lonsdale presented the Lonsdale Trophy for the winning team at the “Inter-Empire Sports Meeting” held at Crystal Palace, London and staged as part of the celebrations of the “Festival of Empire” in 1911. This trophy was won by the Canadian Team by one point, and was retained by Canada until presented to the British Empire Games Federation in 1934. The Cup stood 2ft 6ins high and weighed 340 ounces (27lbs troy).
In 1934, with the approval of the Earl of Lonsdale and of Canada, the Trophy was melted down and on principal cup, in the design of an original Queen Anne Cup and cover made by Richard Bayley in 1712, was presented to the Federation. It is now on display in the Royal Commonwealth Society in London. Replicas of this principal cup were presented to:-
The Earl of Lonsdale
The British Empire Games Associations of:-
Australia, Bermuda, Canada, England, India, New Zealand,
Newfoundland, Rhodesia, Scotland, South Africa, Wales
At a meeting of Empire Games representatives in Los Angeles on 7th August 1932, a decision to form the British Empire Federation was taken, and as confirmed later on in London when a British Empire Games Association had been set up in the many countries concerned. The structure of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is made up of the following positions:
Patron – Queen Elizabeth II
Vice Patron – Prince Edward
Hon Legal Adviser
Hon Medical Adviser
Regional Vice President – Africa
Regional Vice President – Asia
Regional Vice President – America
Regional Vice President – Caribbean
Regional Vice President – Europe
Regional Vice President – Oceania
Plus a co-opted Member (where gender balance is not met)
Chief Executive – CGF (ex-officio)
Membership of the Commonwealth Games Federation is open to one duly recognised Commonwealth Games Association from each of the constituent parts of the Commonwealth. Each competitor must be a citizen or subject of a constituent part of the Commonwealth.