The Common Wealth Games 2018 saw Indian athletes demonstrate some stupendous performance, Capt Seshadri rounds up the glorious performance.
Much gold was struck Down Under, at the Gold Coast… not by prospectors, but by sportspersons. Australia’s major tourist destination, with its welcoming sub-tropical climate, pristine beaches, rainforests and its contrasting theme parks and nightlife, played host less than a fortnight ago, to the Commonwealth Games 2018, with the continent being the venue for the fifth time in the Games’ history.
Just over a century ago, to commemorate the coronation of King George V, a ‘Festival of the Empire’ was held in London. As part of the celebrations, an inter-empire championship was held in athletics, swimming, boxing and wrestling, with teams from the host nation, Canada, South Africa and Australia participating. This then, was probably the first Commonwealth Games, although the term was yet to be coined as the Commonwealth was a non-existent commodity; hence, they were dubbed the British Empire Games. Somewhere along the line, it was decided to hold them once every four years, in tune with the Olympics.
In typical British tradition, there are set rituals for the Games. One such is the Queen’s Baton Relay, somewhat akin to the Olympic Torch. The Baton starts its journey from Buckingham Palace, bearing a message from the Head of the Royal family, now Queen Elizabeth II. At the opening ceremony, the final bearer hands it back to the Queen, or her representative, who reads the message aloud to officially declare the Games open. Today, 71 teams participate in the Games, although there are only 53 registered members under the Commonwealth of Nations; as in the Olympics, the remaining take part under their own flags.
The 2018 Games
At the 2018 Games, over 4,400 sportspersons competed over 12 days in 19 events spread across venues in 14 centres in the city and 3 outside, for a total of 275 sets of medals. Unique to these Games are a few sports that are not part of the Olympic calendar, like net ball, lawn bowling and squash. With the introduction of athletes with disabilities for the first time in the 1994 Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and the signing of a formal agreement in 2007 in Colombo, between the Commonwealth Games Federation and the International Paralympic Committee, the Commonwealth Games made history as the first international competitive event to become fully inclusive. And the results of the para-athletic events are part of the overall medal tally. The 2018 Games also achieved a new distinction by becoming the first major international multi-sporting event to achieve gender equality, with an equal number of events for both men and women.
The Games had their share of ignominy too. Athletes from a few African countries like Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon and Rwanda, disappeared from the Games village, apparently abandoning their world class sporting talent and fame, seeking a future and fortune in Australia. Ironic that this ‘seeking after fortune’ should be in the ‘Gold’ Coast. And as did their wards, so did a few coaches and officials disappear too!
India had a fairly satisfactory outing at the Games. Placed third overall behind host Australia and the United Kingdom, our country finished with a tally of 66 medals, comprising 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze. Many of the medallists are household names in India – Mary Kom at age 35, beating rivals a decade and a half younger to win gold, shuttler Srikanth Kidambi rising to the rank of world number one and our women and men achieving sporting glory in individual and team events.
So, it seems, in the week of Akshaya Tritiya, when gold brought home is said to bring more fortune, our Indian team has done remarkably well. If this belief translates into reality, one could surely expect a much larger tally of medals in 2022!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.