By Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad & Tobago Commonwealth Games Association; President of Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC)
The Commonwealth Games is the jewel in the crown of the Commonwealth Sports Movement. The Games has been a catalyst for positive change in the past and will be a catalyst for change in the future. The broad purpose across the Commonwealth Sports Movement is to play our part in providing a better world for this generation and future generations through sport; to strengthen and support the members of our Movement to do so; to develop sportsmen and sportswomen who aspire to fulfil their potential in their peak performance years; and to enjoy a healthy and purposeful life beyond their life in the cauldron of competitive sport and achievement.
Because sport influences and is influenced by the culture in which it exists, there is constant pressure to compromise our vision and values. In all that we do, we must keep the Commonwealth Sports Movement’s vision and values front and centre.
The Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) are baton carriers for the ethos, values, mission and purpose of the history and traditions that are at the very heart and soul of what the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Games represent: Humanity, Equality, Destiny.
Since 1930, the CGF via the Commonwealth Games has been making a positive difference across the 71 Commonwealth nations and territories. Commonwealth athletes have inspired children and young people by their dedication and determination.
That the weight of history and tradition of the British Empire, and all that it embodied – including colonialism and the negative aspects of Empire - didn't cause the Commonwealth Games to become redundant is a credit to the power of Commonwealth Sport and its unique values of Humanity, Equality and Destiny.
The early years of the twenty-first century have proven to be a test for global sport. Doping, corruption, governance scandals and questions of the integrity of international sport have all been at the front of public discourse. Social media, digital technology and a more engaged social and political zeitgeist have all led to citizen-led grassroots social and political disruption.
Yet, despite this, the Commonwealth Sports Movement continues to redefine itself as an inclusive, modern and relevant cause-driven movement with an identity and personality that is authentic, distinctive, and unique in international sport, even. The balancing act between tradition and innovation is always difficult; there are still assumptions which are rooted in the way things have always been done rather than the way things should be done in the future if we are going to grow and develop.
In recent years, the transformative agenda and vision led by the first female President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Louise Martin, has driven a forward-thinking, progressive and dynamic approach to the Commonwealth Sports Movement’s work, and brought a sense of urgency to review all aspects of what Commonwealth sport means to the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion citizens in 2018.
Good governance and inclusion is more than a slogan. The transformation towards good governance and inclusion will not be complete until every single Commonwealth Games Association embraces the transformation of this movement, regardless of its size. Gender equality, non-discrimination, universal principles of good governance, a contemporary, forward-thinking, athlete-centred approach to marketing and promotion are crucial for all Commonwealth Games Associations to adopt if Commonwealth Sport is to continue to emerge and lead by example in international sport, and at a time when the Commonwealth is becoming increasingly relevant once again.
The captivating, personal tales of Commonwealth sporting legends tell a story of inspiration and motivation and testimony to their faith, courage, determination and sacrifice. Notwithstanding the fact that the modernisation of the Commonwealth Sport brand means showing people that the Movement is far, far more than just the organiser of a Games for the Commonwealth’s best athletes. The Commonwealth Games may be the flagship event of our Movement, but in today’s world we must be equally focussed on embracing contemporary sports that are youth and urban and utilising the power of Commonwealth Sport to improve society, as we are with delivering a good Games. Driving change and improving society is the Commonwealth’s raison d’être.
The Commonwealth is a unique construct. Historically advanced and developed countries, with well-resourced educational and capital infrastructure, have had advantages over developing countries in different sectors. However, the sporting field is a place where the unequal distribution of resource and wealth don’t have to hinder those developing countries. Sport knows no bounds, and is an opportunity for all.
The Commonwealth Games has always lived up to its reputation as “the Friendly Games”. A consequence of this label is that the Commonwealth Sports Movement is rightly perceived as sincere and driven by the need to improve the lives of Commonwealth citizens and communities; not driven by money and greed. In many ways, Commonwealth Sport is the antithesis to other, modern-day, commercially-driven sports movements. We are a Movement that puts values above value, and one that prides itself in its passion for pure, authentic sport. We are a Movement that is rooted in real people, real characters and real stories. We are a Movement that is inclusive, that tries to bring people together.
The real question that Commonwealth Sport must ask itself today is: how can we ensure we resonate with the growth of sport in other parts of the world, in the world outside of the Commonwealth? We must continually ensure that we are not just having a conversation with the Commonwealth, but a conversation with the whole world. And is Commonwealth Sport in 2018 able to attract and sustain interest from a young audience? These are questions we must continue to ask as we evolve and forge our place as the leading socially-driven international sporting Movement.
The Commonwealth Games is one of the best-loved brands in world sport, and the Commonwealth must use this period of increased relevance to strengthen and build on its brand in a smart, creative and innovative way. Only then will we continue to broaden our reach and resonate with the world as we have over the last 88 years.
Follow Brian Lewis on Twitter at @briaclew
About the CGF
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the organisation that is responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games, and for delivering on the vision of the Commonwealth Sports Movement: to build peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities globally by inspiring Commonwealth Athletes to drive the impact and ambition of all Commonwealth Citizens through Sport.
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