The inception of the Commonwealth Games


12 May, 1911, the “Festival of Empire” was held in London incorporating an “Inter-Empire Championships” – the unofficial forerunner to the Commonwealth Games.


In July 1891, before Baron Pierre De Coubertin first publicly announced his ideas for a revival of the Olympic Games, Rev. Astly Cooper wrote in magazines “Greater Britain” and “The Times” a plan for what he labelled a “Pan Britannic Festival”.

His suggestion of a sports gathering restricted to Empire countries, a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the Empire, attracted much attention.

Rev Cooper made several attempts to get some practical steps taken in England, but without success.

The plan found support in Australia and was taken up by 35-year-old Amateur Athletic Union of Australia President, Richard Coombes.
Coombes was enthusiastic and constantly drew attention to the prospect of an Empire Games and the good which could be wielded by such a sporting assembly.

Then, just 20 years after it was first mooted, they bore fruit at the celebrations which marked the Coronation of King George V in 1911.

These celebrations, included a “Festival of Empire” held in the grounds of the old Crystal Palace with a number of exhibitions and entertainments amongst some sporting events .

Taking part in these various contests against athletes from the Motherland, were sportsmen from Australasia (Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania), Canada and South Africa.

There were five events in track and field, two in swimming events, one in heavyweight boxing and another in middleweight wrestling.

Lord Lonsdale donated a handsome silver cup which stood 77cm tall and weighed 10 kilograms, for the most successful country, won by Canada by one point.

In 1934, Canada presented the cup back to the British Empire Games Federation where it was agreed the Lord Lonsdale cup was embarrassingly oversized.

Consent was given to melt the cup down and the silver contents made into a principal cup of reasonable dimensions to be held by the Federation – with smaller cups to be presented to countries who had formed the British Empire Games.

It was hoped that this first officially organised meeting of Empire sportsmen would hasten the conduct of a regular Games, but soon after the 1911 festival, all such plans were overshadowed by the first World War.

Nevertheless, in 1924 in Paris, France a track and field competition between British Empire and the USA were held at Queen’s Club and Stamford Bridge, in London.

In 1928, first practical steps were taken to organise the British Empire Games when M. M. (Bobby) Robinson of Canada called a meeting of representatives of all Empire countries, and made the proposal that the British Empire Games should be held in Canada in 1930.

These Games in Hamilton, Canada, are regarded as the true starting point of the present Commonwealth Games.


1930 Australian Team at Opening Ceremony







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