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Commonwealth Games: Khela Hobe?

by tavaga

Are the commonwealth games still relevant?

Media biases aren’t something new for the country but it getting involved with sporting events is not so common and often worrisome. Remember when the Javelin heartthrob Neeraj Chopra won silver in the Olympics? Of course, you remember and also the celebration that followed. Even mega Indian brands and media gave it solid coverage and recognition. Nothing even comes close to that for our Commonwealth winners.

Has the brand lost its charm or are we not celebrating anymore? CWG has not been getting its share of media bites maybe due to all the controversies or the funding twists it attracts. Despite such a royal history behind it, what has led to its unpopularity (so to say)?

History of Commonwealth:

Even before the inception of the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth had been arranging sports meets since 1891. The purpose behind such a sports festival was to showcase the increasing goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire. Since then, it’s been arranged every 4 years with Canada being the first ever host country.

Talking about India, we hosted the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi back in 2010. But for a long time, things are not turning out well for the Commonwealth Games and it shows.

The Commonwealth Crisis:

There were periods in the past when there were bidding wars between host countries over who would beg to organize the next Commonwealth Games but now the times have completely altered for the extravagant sporting event. Instead of choosing the host country amidst the sparky bids, the Commonwealth Games Federation is now running after countries to fund and host the upcoming events. Even worse is the inability of the selected host countries to host the mega multi-sport event for the want of insufficient funds.

This year’s games is no short of controversial. The 2022 Commonwealth Games was about to take place in Durban, Africa. After winning the hosting title in 2015, Durban was going to be the first ever African host in history to host this event but not until 2017 when the federation reversed its decision due to financial troubles. Consequently, Birmingham was chosen as a replacement host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The same repercussions have been anticipated for the 2026 sports meet too. Canada was expected to host that but not now, all due to similar reasons. The sports meet was anticipated to cost around $150 million which made the local government withdraw its support. A petition was filed for burning the public money for it and the government can’t stand that. Ever since then, no official announcement has been made by the federation in the same regard but New Zealand seems excited to host it and is in talks for the same.

The Commonwealth controversies:

It wasn’t a smooth ride for Commonwealth games to establish this legacy. Back in 1986 when the Commonwealth Games were held in Scotland, it received a wide political boycott from 32 nations. It was a reaction to the UK Government’s refusal to impose sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid administration. As a result, Edinburgh witnessed the lowest athletes that participated in the CommonWealth saga with just 26 participating nations. All of the boycotting countries included Africa, Asia and Caribbean countries which only left the whites to compete among themselves.

While that was a long time ago, recently Commonwealth games decided to remove Archery and Shooting from its list of competitive games. And India being the top performer on these games for the last few years, it’ll now receive a backlash on its collective medal wins. Hence, absence of both these sports will heavily impact India’s performance in the Games. An unexpected removal of games which India dominated highly would affect us as we were top chart performers by winning these games.

The reason for the cancellation has been given as the lack of infrastructural and logistics support to organize those games. With that being said, this Commonwealth edition is undoubtedly going to be one of the toughest to conquer due to two of our expert games being removed.

Can we expect a Commonwealth Comeback?

Observing the funding crisis and the lowering media coverage, Commonwealth isn’t romanticizing the masses that it used to once. But for the participating athletes and sports enthusiasts, it’s a promising place to represent their country against the world. Having said that, with every passing tournament, there awaits a new dispute pertaining to it from rejecting host countries, favoring events and discriminating the athletes which makes it a home for controversies. And since the reasons for its unpopularity has been growing due to its biased decisions, the Commonwealth organisation needs a massive rethinking for it to grab the long lost brand value back.

Will the “Khela Hobe” in its true spirit?

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