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Do the Commonwealth Games matter?

By Ashton Chugh, July 24, 2014 —

Did you know that the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland began on July 23? I didn’t until my eighty-year-old grandpa asked me to tape the opening ceremonies. Hey, the Americans aren’t competing in it, so none of the major US corporations advertise.

The Commonwealth Games is an 11-day multi-sport event that features athletes from the Commonwealth. The games resemble the Olympics in terms of their billion dollar showmanship. The only major difference is that they are a stark reminder of the remnants of colonialism.

Additionally, the importance of this billion dollar sporting spectacle is debated every four years, especially since said spectacle features lawn bowling as a serious competition.

Due to inflated security costs, many cities are simply not interested in hosting the games. The 2018 games had only two bidding cities — Gold Coast, Australia and Hambantota, Sri Lanka. Edmonton has a 50/50 chance with Durban, South Africa to host the 2022 games.

When most of the Commonwealth countries boast poor human rights records, concerns of human welfare are readily brought to the forefront of people’s minds. Homosexuality is illegal in 42 of 53 Commonwealth countries that are competing in the games. Additionally, half of the countries still actively enforce the death penalty, and some still do so for children.

The Commonwealth Games 2013 charter explicitly states that members are committed to equality, non-discrimination and respect for human rights. Based on the list of countries competing in the Scotland games, it is clear that any enforcement of this charter is largely a farce.

Boycotts of sporting events for infringements of human rights or international law are not uncommon. Widespread protests of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and between 1964–1988 during the apartheid regime in South Africa are just two examples. However, this course of action is not popular since it penalizes athletes instead of the politicians overseeing human rights violations.

Scotland has the opportunity to improve the image of the Commonwealth Games as the 2010 edition in Dehli set the bar pretty low. Major concerns throughout the Dehli games ranged from an unpredictable bus system and empty venues to dengue fever and aggressive vultures.

An upside to the Scotland games is that Usain Bolt is competing for the Jamaicans in the men’s 4×100 metre relay. Bolt is considered the most exciting athlete to
compete at the event. So be sure to tune in for all of about 40 seconds, because historically, it has been rare for big name athletes to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

Scotland hopes its games will be the Advil to alleviate your sports hangover from the World Cup. By playing host to the games that features athletes from countries that are Amnesty International deadweights, Scotland is neglecting to address the human rights violations committed by the participating countries.

CBC will be streaming the games online if you needed something else to distract you from your beautiful summer.

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