Commonwealth Games and The Gambia

The Gambia is back in the game – I mean, of course, the Commonwealth Games which are coming back to the UK in 2022. Durban, South Africa was initially elected to host the 2022 Games. Birmingham’s bid was elected after Durban was stripped of host city status after citing financial restraints.

The Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth 8 February 2018 with the unanimous approval of all Member States.

Then UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said that he’d seen “huge enthusiasm for the values and opportunities offered by our modern, diverse Commonwealth” during his visit to The Gambia. He added,

This shows that when a country commits to strengthening democracy, governance and the rule of law, it is welcomed back to the international community and the Commonwealth family.

Boris Johnson

Quora asked the question, The Gambia recently rejoined the Commonwealth. What are the benefits for doing so? It reminded me of how much the Commonwealth has featured in recent news. I answered the question – Then did this post.

The Commonwealth – Back in the Game?

The Commonwealth of Nations is made up of 53 nations, mostly former territories of the British Empire. This political association was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949. It started out as the British Commonwealth in 1926 and has existed in some form ever since.

There have been many changes over the years, countries have joined and left, but the idea has survived the test of time.

Recent events indicate a renewed interest in the Commonwealth. This historical, unique idea – a collection of free and equal sovereign nations working together – is back in trend.

1. Commonwealth Games

Just a few years ago, the future of the Commonwealth Games seemed uncertain. Public interest dropped steadily, then seemed to turn on a 6d in 2014. They have gone from strength to strength ever since.

Glasgow 2014

Lou, a friend I worked with, volunteered to help facilitate these games. She chatted and enthusiastically kept me posted about the buzz and excitement around the events. Many young people worked long and hard without complaint to ensure that athletes and spectators from all over the world enjoyed the very best that their city and the UK had to offer.

Homegrown – Pride without Prejudice
Commonwealth Games 2014 - Scotland Athlete with the Saltire

Citation: Used with the kind permission of L Kelly – All Rights Reserved

The spectacle of the ceremonies was breathtaking. The games united the UK, with all eyes on a Scotland that shimmered with the kind of glamour that’s normally reserved for our capital.

That was my first sense of the unity that the Commonwealth brings out in people.

Team South Africa – the Green & Gold at Glasgow 2014
Team South Africa, Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014
Citation: Used with the kind permission of L Kelly – All Rights Reserved

Gold Coast 2018

Australia was next to host the games. Gold Coast 2018 was cited as the biggest sporting spectacular the Gold Coast has ever seen, and the biggest event of its kind in Australia for a decade. Branded Share the Dream, the event was as much a cultural as a sporting event.

71 nations, 6,600 athletes and team members joined local volunteers and entertained the world with 11 days of inclusive sport, art and cultural programs.

2. Royal Commonwealth wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married on 19 May 2018. St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was the perfect venue. The young vibrant couple brought a new, young energy to the Royal family.

Meghan wore a gorgeously simple Givenchy gown, but it was her veil that stole the show. It was 16 foot long and intricately embroidered with the signature flowers from each and every one of the countries in the Commonwealth. This early embracing and inclusion of the group of nations has continued to expand.

Meghan’s veil shows the Commonwealth flowers

3. Royal Commonwealth Tours

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex set on their first world tour within months of their wedding. Commonwealth countries topped the list.

  • Tuesday 16th October:     Sydney, Australia            
  • Wednesday 17th October:    Dubbo, Australia
  • Thursday 18th October:    Melbourne, Australia 
  • Friday 19th October:    Sydney, Australia
  • Saturday 20th October:    Sydney, Australia        
  • Sunday 21st October:    Sydney, Australia
  • Monday 22nd October:    Fraser Island, Australia 
  • Tuesday 23rd October:    Suva, Fiji
  • Wednesday 24th October:    Suva, Fiji 
  • Thursday 25th October:    Nadi, Fiji and Nuku’alofa, Tonga    
  • Friday 26th October:    Nuku’alofa, Tonga and Sydney, Australia 
  • Saturday 27th October:    Sydney, Australia 
  • Sunday 28th October:    Wellington, New Zealand
  • Monday 29th October:    Wellington and Abel Tasman, New Zealand
  • Tuesday 30th October:    Auckland, New Zealand
  • Wednesday 31st October:    Rotorua, New Zealand

The couple has shown a big interest in the Commonwealth nations and supporting the ideals of equality and fairness. They promote inclusiveness and the celebrating of diversity. This is very much in line with Prince Harry’s longtime commitment to finding solutions for problems facing people and wildlife in many Commonwealth countries. It expands his interests and initiatives like wildlife management, orphanages and tackling HIV pandemics in Africa and supporting veterans through the Invictus Games (held in Toronto, Canada in 2017, then Gold Coast, Australia in 2018.

Meghan Markle has expressed her own aims around supporting gender equality and access to quality education for girls.

4. Queen Elizabeth & the Commonwealth

The Queen’s commitment to the Commonwealth started when she was a young adult. Her support has never waivered.

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong

Princess Elizabeth’s oath to the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, South Africa -1947

The Queen has personally visited every country in the Commonwealth except Cameroon (joined in 1995) and Rwanda (joined in 2009), many of them multiple times. Other members of the Royal Family have done so, too.
Her Majesty visited Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2016. She has reduced travel in recent years but remains very engaged.

Regular audiences with High Commissioners, updates from her Private Secretaries and involvement in projects such as The Queen’s Young Leaders and The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy keep her in tune with current affairs. Family members continue to visit, engage and bring back news. Further information is found here.

The Future of the Commonwealth

The days of imperialism and rule by draconian law have passed. Citizens all over the world are showing their preference for co-operation between sovereign states over a one rule fits all arrangement.

Many countries of the old Eastern Bloc countries, along with other new democracies are increasingly keen to enjoy their long-awaited self-governance. There is growing understanding and respect for cultural differences between nations, and encouragement is replacing force as a means of promoting human, animal and environmental responsibilities.

The role of heading the Commonwealth is not hereditary. The nations decided that Prince Charles will take over from the Queen. The decision was made shortly before the Queens 92nd birthday.

“We recognise the role of the Queen in championing the Commonwealth and its peoples. The next head of the Commonwealth shall be his Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,”

Statement Commonwealth leaders

The Prime Minister, Theresa May told a press conference that the vote had been unanimous. She added,

“His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity. And it is fitting that, one day, he will continue the work of his mother, Her Majesty, the Queen” she said.

As the UK makes plans the leave the European Union, the Commonwealth ideal looks to be gaining popularity. The shape of the Commonwealth has changed with the times. Members now include an increasingly growing number of countries that are expected to become even more powerful and influential in our evolving world.

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