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Commonwealth Games also known as CWG is the second largest sports competition in the world after Olympics. It is held once in four years but only in between the Olympic years. Started in 1930, CWG was initially known by various names such as the British Empire Games, Friendly Games and British Commonwealth Games. Since 1978, they came to be known as the Commonwealth Games. A unique characteristic of the Commonwealth Games is that it is the only Games, which share a common language, English.
The Commonwealth Games is a world-class multi-sport meet of athletes from around the world which is governed by Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). Members of the Commonwealth of Nations that majorly formed a part of the British Empire during the colonial rule participate in it.
There are currently 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations and around 71 countries participate in the Games every fourth year. The four constituent countries of the United Kingdom-England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland send separate teams to the Commonwealth Games.
The aim of CWG is to improve social cultural relationships and promotion of democracy and Human Rights. Hailed as “Non Political”, the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent sovereign countries that support each other and work towards shared goals in democracy and development.
It's origin can be traced back to 1930 when the Games were held for the first time in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and saw the participation of 400 athletes from eleven countries. Reverend Ashley Cooper was the first person to propose the idea of having a Pan-Britannic sporting contest to foster a spirit of goodwill and understanding within the British Empire. In 1928, a key Canadian athlete, Bobby Robinson, was given the task of organizing the first ever Commonwealth Games.
Since then the CWG have enjoyed a smooth innings except for a 12 year hiatus during the World War II, as the Games in 1942 to be held in Montreal were cancelled. Originally having only single competition sports, the 1998 Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur witnessed a major change when team sports such as cricket, hockey and netball made their first appearance.
In 2001, the three core values of Humanity, Equality and Destiny were adopted as the motto of the Commonwealth Games. These values inspire and connect thousands of people and signify the broad mandate for holding the Games within the Commonwealth.
There are a total of 31 sports which have been approved to be a part of the Commonwealth Games. Out of these, the sports in the category of Core Sports are mandatory in all the Games.
The Core Sports are Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Field Hockey, Lawn Bowls, Netball, Rugby Sevens, Squash, Swimming and Weightlifting. Apart from these, there are optional sports which are picked by the host country and seven para sports.
The Optional Sports are Basketball, Cycling, Diving, Gymnastics, Judo, Shooting, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Triathlon and Wrestling. Till now only six teams have attended every Commonwealth Games- Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales.
Looking at the host countries the United Kingdom has hosted the Games for a record 5 times while Australia and Canada have hosted it four times each. The 2010 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XIX Commonwealth Games was held in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi, India. It was the largest international multi-sport event to be staged in India, eclipsing the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982. The official mascot of the Games was Shera and the official song of the Games, "Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto", was composed by celebrated music maestro A.R. Rahman. The motto for 2010 CWG was “Come Out and Play.”
India’s performance in the games was outstanding and has become remarkable in the history of Indian Games. It is the first time for India that our Athletes brought highest number of Gold medals ever in any Commonwealth Games. Out of 826 medals India won 101, including 38 Gold, its highest ever, to be the second in tally behind Australia with a total of 177. We also brought home 27 Silver and 36 Bronze medals.
Krishna Poonia was undoubtedly the start of India’s victory spree at the Commonwealth Games by getting One Gold leading a clean sweep of Women’s Discus Throw. The second Gold was clinched in Women’s 4x400m relay. Three new national records were also made by Prajusha in Women’s tripla jump, Maheshwary in Men’s triple jump and by Men’s 4x400m relay team.
The record haul in Shooting was setup by the shooters, with Gagan Narang, bagging four Gold medals. Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh also bagged Gold in 10m Air Pistol (Pairs) Shooting. An unforgettable winning by India was finally led by Badminton Player Saina Nehwal in Women’s Singles final when she had an unbeaten 4-0 record against her opponent; Malaysia’s Wong Mew Choo and won the Gold medal.
The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is a prestigious and important event. The Queens Baton Relay is a part of the opening tradition and has been a symbol of the Games since 1958. The Baton used in the 2010 CWG was made from Aluminium and Gold and had various features like capturing image and sound, storing messages sent by the people all over the world, GPS, and LEDs to represent the colour of the flag of the Nation which it is currently in. The Queens Baton relay is started by the nation who held the last Commonwealth Games. The final relay runner is the current host nation.
In 2014, the Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland for over 11 days commencing from 23rd July to 3rd August. In the games 71 nations will participate and 17 sports will be played.
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At exactly two minutes past seven tonight, a huge inflatable blimp rose slowly and smoothly into the hot air above Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to the sound of hundreds of traditional drums, pipes and conch shells, and the cheers of 65,000 people.
This was the moment that 1.2bn people – there are few in India who were still unaware of the event – had been waiting for.
"Let the games begin," Pratibha Patil, the Indian president, said.
Ajai Kumar, who runs a mobile phone shop in Delhi's Punjabi Bagh, watched from a £12 seat in the upper tiers, his one-year-old son on his arm.
"It is our nation. It is our India," the 30-year-old said as he queued to get through the triple layers of security around the venue earlier. "How could I miss it?"
But for a moment, it had seemed as though India was about to miss the 19th Commonwealth Games.
Only days ago, there were question marks over security, crucial timing equipment and the apparently sub-standard £150m athletes' village. There were calls for an alternative competition to be organised elsewhere.
Indians talked of being shamed by their own leaders, and insulted by those of other countries.
But all that appeared to have been washed away in a flood of Indian national pride and celebration tonight. Though catcalls greeted Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the organising committee, he was cheered when he told the crowd: "India has arrived".
Even the less than charismatic prime minister, 77-year-old Manmohan Singh, was applauded.
Prince Charles had read a message from the Queen, who missed her first Commonwealth Games for 44 years but said: "When countries can compete together in sports ... it serves as an inspiration for nations to work together for peace throughout the world".
In the stadium, the ceremony was – like the entire effort India has made for the games – monumental in its scale and expense.
There was a 500-ton stage, modelled on a traditional temple, and 7,000 performers, carefully chosen to represent India's multitude of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Blessings from all the major Indian faiths, and several minor ones, were projected on the side of the giant blimp in half a dozen local languages.
Then the athletes, from 71 countries, paraded, with India dressed in burgundy and gold traditional dress. So few of its young sportswomen had worn a saree before that special assistants had to be found, today's newspapers reported. The crowd's biggest cheer by far, other than that for their own athletes, was for the Pakistani contingent.
Organisers and politicians had wanted to keep the show focused on Indian culture and heritage.
The big stars of Bollywood were kept at a distance. Instead, the stage and blimp together became a vast "tree of life" to the sound of vedic and Buddhist chanting before transforming into a giant glowing neon statue of the Buddha, complete with glowing chakra inside. Then came the Great Indian Journey, a train spilling rickshaws, cattle, fishermen, hawkers, oversized sparkling bags of laundry, leering bureaucrats, weavers and brick kiln labourers across the stadium floor.
There were even construction workers – a small tribute to the hundreds of thousands from the poor states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, each much bigger than a large western European country, who have swarmed over worksites across the city in recent months.
With so many deep social problems, some have doubted the wisdom of spending as much as £5bn on what will be, by far, the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. There is the competition to come and a continuing fear of terrorism or a repeat of the bridge collapse of two weeks ago.
The sloth, incompetence and nepotism of officials, exposed in recent months, remains. So, too, does the daily reality of life in what is still – despite the huge economic growth also celebrated at the ceremony – a country where very many people are very poor.
But today, few dwelt on the negative. Eventually, Indian popular film and music finally made their inevitable entrance, flanked by hundreds of Bollywood dancers, and the event's loud, brash and much-criticised anthem, Jiyo, Utho, Bado, Jeeto! (live, rise, ascend, win), composed by AR Rahman, was heard.
"Namaste and Jai Hind (long live India)," said the announcer – and then it was over.
Leaving the ceremony, Neeta Kumar, a 47-year-old policeman, could barely talk. "I love my country," he repeated, shaking his head. "We have many problems, but I love my country."
Pragya, his 14 year old daughter, will be dancing in the closing ceremony in 11 days. She smiled shyly and said: "I am very proud."