2018 Commonwealth Games Review
Once glance at the final medal table of the 2018 Commonwealth Games shows a healthy lead for the hosts, Australia, at the top of the pile. The Australian team won a total 198 medals, 62 more than second place country, England.
There is no denying Australia enjoyed tremendous games at the Gold Coast, winning a phenomenal 80 gold medals and the games can be declared a success in that respect. Interestingly, it was England who topped the medals table at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which were held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Being in the United Kingdom, this was as good as a home Commonwealth Games for the English team, and they went on to win 174 medals in total, 37 more than the second-placed Australian team. So, is having the Commonwealth Games hosted in your own country, such a huge advantage to make the medal table swing so dramatically?
Firstly, the English team underperformed, of that there is little doubt. In fact, the 2018 Commonwealth Games was the second-worst performance by an England team in the 21 editions of the games. Interestingly, the only time they achieved a lower medal percentage was in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which were also hosted in Australia.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games were held in the northern hemisphere spring, and many track and field athletes are not used to running multiple events at that time of year. Minus the para-sport events, the Gold Coast games saw the worst Commonwealth Games performance of any England team in track and field, and that has apparently had an impact on the final medal table.
Other British nations enjoyed an excellent Commonwealth Games, with Wales finishing seventh in the medal table, equalling their record total from Glasgow and doubling their tally of five golds from four years ago. Gold Coast 2018 was the best Commonwealth Games for Wales, who enjoyed a 4.1% share of the medals.
The Gold Coast games were also a success for Scotland, who finished with 44 medals, 14 more than their target at the start of the competition and only nine fewer than they achieved at their home games in Glasgow.
India finished third in the medal table at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, improving on their fifth place of four years ago. This may come as a surprise when looking at medal tables from the Olympic and Asian Games where there are many countries in those events not in the Commonwealth, and this gives India the chance to win more medals, an opportunity they have taken with both hands. There is also the difference in the sports chosen at the Commonwealth Games, this can be advantageous to some countries and work against others.
The Canadian team fell short of their target of 100 medals and went home with 82 medals, 15 of which were gold. The New Zealand team were reluctant to set a medal target but came away with 46, including 15 gold, this is one more gold medal and one more in total than they achieved four years ago.
So, while England was disappointed to fall short of their target, other nations went home pleased with their efforts, yet Australia was well clear of each of them in the medal table. It was the second time Australia has dominated a home Commonwealth Games, having done so at Melbourne in 2006, so having home advantage apparently worked well for the Australian team.
In 1938, Australia topped the medal table in Sydney, they did so again at Perth in 1962 and back in Brisbane 20 years later. However, a look at the all-time medal count shows Australia has finished top in seven of the last eight Commonwealth Games, six of which were not held in Australia.
So, the fact Australia finished top of the medals table should not come as a shock, the big blow was their performance at the 2014 games in Glasgow. It will be interesting to see where the Australian team finish in the medal table in 2022, when the Commonwealth Games returns to England and Birmingham is the host city.
One area of the games where the most medals are available is swimming and Australia are very strong when it comes to that event. The United States dominates the Olympic Games but are not part of the Commonwealth, this leaves the field open for Australia, who finished second in the 2016 Olympic Games medal table behind the United States.
With so many swimming medals up for grabs at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a strong performance in the pool means a high finish in the overall medal table. Nobody came close to competing with the hosts in the pool with Australia winning 73 of their 198 medals in the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
However, despite their superiority at the top of the medal table, there was one gold medal which got away for Australia, one they were favourites to win. Australia has won more Commonwealth Games gold medals in netball than any other country. Alongside the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games is the most significant event in Netball, both Australia and New Zealand have won all five gold medals between them, the former with three to their name.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games saw a new finalist in England. The previous five finals have all be contested between Australia and New Zealand, and without the latter in the final, Australia was very confident of claiming their second gold in as many games.
The match was full of drama until the final seconds when Helen Housby scored to give England a 52-51 victory. The home crowd were left in shock, it was the best result in England’s history, having previously won silver at the 1975 World Cup in a round-robin format.
The Commonwealth Games were full of many great sporting moments, but the Commonwealth itself is about a shared commitment to democracy, humanity and equality. Each nation has an equal vote, no matter their size and the Commonwealth Games celebrates this commonality every four years. The Commonwealth Games has been found to foster co-operation and friendship among member nations and territories, this could indeed be seen at times between the competing athletes at the Gold Coast.
One moment of sportsmanship stands out from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it came during the women’s 10,000 metres. Australian long-distance runners Eloise Wellings, Madeline Hills and Celia Sullohern, finished unplaced in the race and were left feeling disappointed but as all the other athletes disappeared from the track, there was one competitor yet to finish.
Lineo Chaka, from the small African nation of Lesotho, crossed the finish line five minutes behind the winner but the Australian trio stayed on the track to wait for her to finish, offering applause and encouragement. Commonwealth Games chair Peter Beattie was quick to voice his admiration for the Australians and this moment will live as long in the memory as the many gold medal performances.
The Commonwealth Games also gives smaller nations a chance to shine on the biggest stage and perhaps the most lasting image of success came when the Malawi netball team were dancing following their shock victory over one of the tournament favourites, New Zealand. The joy etched on their faces was a sight to behold, even New Zealand supporters could not deny them their moment of undiluted happiness.
However, no sporting contest seems to go by in the current climate, without moments of controversy and even the Commonwealth Games is not immune to such events. With the fall out from the Australia cricket team scandal hanging in the air, Australian sport could not afford another major blow up, and for the large part, the Commonwealth Games went by without too much-unwanted drama.
Many onlookers argue Australia’s bid to impress regarding their sporting prowess crossed the line when Australian marathon runner Michael Shelley ran past Scotsman Callum Hawkins, who had collapsed to the floor, to claim the gold medal. Instead of stopping to check the wellbeing of his fellow athlete, Shelley ignored him and continued running.
In truth, this was an isolated incident, as an athlete competing in a major event such as the Commonwealth Games, it is difficult to judge just how you would react when something unexpected happens. You have trained hard for many years, for this one moment, do you stop and help a fellow athlete, or do you see the gold medal you have been striving to win? People are quick to judge, while the images do not look good, Shelley has not cheated in any way and cannot be blamed for continuing the race.
Perhaps the most defining moment of the whole episode was the delay in treatment to Hawkins, who was left on the ground for several minutes before receiving any medical assistance. This cannot happen again at the Commonwealth Games, as lives are potentially at risk.
It’s often said politics and sport do not mix, you need to only look at the football World Cup to realise what a mess it can create when the two collide.
The Commonwealth Games seems to promote a mix of politics and sport. Commonwealth Games Federation chief David Grevemberg spoke before the 2018 Commonwealth Games and said it was;
“A fantastic opportunity to magnify awareness of a host of issues, to take advocacy positions, and connect athletes and sports with the social change agenda; from human rights, LGBT rights, and climate change, to female empowerment and indigenous reconciliation.”
However, 37 of the competing nations at the 2018 Commonwealth Games still criminalise homosexuality and British diver, Tom Daley, was keen to point out this fact at the Gold Coast. “You want to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board, and for 37 Commonwealth countries that are here participating that is not the case,” said Daley.
The host of the 2026 Commonwealth Games is still up for grabs with one of the nations which is hoping to have the honour is Malaysia, who is one of the 37 countries Daley is referring to in his comments. Homosexuality is banned in Malaysia and Daley has placed some pressure on the governing body ahead of their decision on who will host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
When Samoa and the Bahamas hosted the Commonwealth Youth Games, they had no child safety standards in place. However, the Commonwealth Games Federation worked with UNICEF to change that and hopefully, the same can happen if Malaysia were to host the 2026 edition of the Commonwealth Games.
The prominent inclusion of Australia’s indigenous culture in the opening ceremony and the encouragement of the Rwandan beach volleyball team to wear black armbands to mark the 24th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide was met with mixed responses. Despite opposition from some of her rivals, the Commonwealth Games Federation backed New Zealand’s controversial transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and the number of medals awarded to men and women were equal at the Gold Coast, which is a first for a multi-discipline sports event.
Despite these compelling moments, Grevemberg, the head of the Commonwealth Games Federation, was quick to point out “it’s not about politics, it is about humanity. That is what we, Commonwealth sport, are about.”
So, has the 2018 Commonwealth Games been a success? Rumours have been circling about the International Olympic Committee, who have not taken a considerable interest in the Commonwealth Games previously, contacting officials, to learn from the federation’s social programme in an attempt to improve its image following the Russian doping crisis.
Therefore, the Commonwealth Games must be doing something right. In such a big event, it is difficult to please everyone. Consequently, the federation cannot be blamed for the decisions of individual athletes.
Many Gold Coast businesses complained about reduced profits as locals decided to leave the region during the games. The cost of hosting the Commonwealth Games is enormous but the moments produced, such as the joy of the Malawi netball team and the opportunity for transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to compete, are priceless and long may it continue.