The question regarding the relevance of the Commonwealth Games was raised before the beginning of the XXI version and afterwards again on a finishing up day in Gold Coast. Considering the way the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG 2018) were ruled by Australia — which finished with 198 decorations — four not as much as the joined count of the following two (England 136 and India 66), the inquiry will keep on being asked in the close future. (CWG awards tally) (CWG 2018 full scope)
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Lousie Martin had defended its relevance at the start of the Games and its CEO David Grevemberg was asked about the legacy on the final day of competition. “These Games have changed the conversation; changed the way we think about the Commonwealth, about the city of Gold Coast, about Queensland, about what it means to be a Commonwealth citizen and that’s the start of a legacy,” Grevemberg said. (India at CWG)
With other nations failing to catch up with Australia, and with the standard in most sports — except in swimming where Australia eclipsed its own world record in women’s 4x100m freestyle relay — way below world standard, such questions are justified.
But as the officials point out, these Games are relevant as they help improve the standard of sports in participating countries. Gold Coast set the record for the most gold-winning nations, as well as the widest distribution of medals (43 countries). Five countries won their maiden Commonwealth Games medals here, indicating the progress in what otherwise were the most memorable Commonwealth Games in memory.
India too had a memorable Games, finishing third with 66 medals, their third-best haul that will give its athletes the confidence to emulate their performances in tougher events like the Asian Games, world championships and, perhaps, the Olympics.
However, pound for pound this probably was India’s best CWG performance because of the sheer weight of the performances. Unlike 2002 and 2010, the number of events was less and there were fewer medals on offer in the shooting, India’s strong point. Till 2010, each shooting discipline had a pairs (team) event, which translated into more medals, and India was able to breach the 100-medal mark in New Delhi.
The sport like archery — which offered 24 medals, including eight gold — and tennis, with 15 medals, were part of the 2010 CWG but discontinued in 2014 Glasgow.
What was heartening about India’s Gold Coast performance was the sheer diversity of sports. India triumphed in non-traditional sports like table tennis (nine, including five gold), squash (two silver) and athletics (three, including one gold). Also, the medals were bagged by sportspersons of all age groups — seniors like Mary Kom, Tejaswini Sawant, Sushil Kumar and Achanta Sharath Kamal and youngsters like Manu Bhaker, Anish Bhanwala and Mehuli Ghosh.
Such performance also raises hope of a good showing in the Olympics. And, India can expect some good news from Tokyo in 2020 as Commonwealth Games success has spurred India to the improved showing in the Olympics. After their best-ever tally at 2010 CWG, India went on to register their best showing at the 2012 London Olympics, winning six medals (two silver and four bronze).
Will India do the same at the Tokyo Olympics?