Commonwealth Games organizers have defended its importance in the run-up to the competition, arguing that it continues to thrive. Speaking ahead of the opening ceremony, Katie Sadleir, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, was adamant the event had not become irrelevant.
“It’s going to be far from that,” Sadleir said. “This is an organization that spans 72 nations. We just had an AGM, we heard from Birmingham, we heard from 2026, we announced that we will have the Youth Games in Trinidad next year. We have other countries lining up waiting to be part of this process in the Future Games.”
Among the issues in recent years has been the cost of hosting the games, with Durban in South Africa dropping out due to financial constraints, but Sadleir identified one of the biggest challenges as appealing to a younger crowd. Her organization tried to address this by initiating the first Commonwealth eSports Championships.
On Thursday afternoon, activist groups planned to protest against laws that criminalize the LGBTQ+ community in most Commonwealth countries, after Tom Daly spoke out earlier in the week. According to Dame Louise Martin, president of the CGF, they are working with Daly.
“We see everyone as equal. We don’t see gender, we don’t see race, we don’t see color. We see everyone as one and that is our ethos and what we stand for. That’s why Katie and [the] the team is working with Tom and we will see some of that at the ceremony tonight,” said Dame Martin.
In addition to its relevance, the colonial origins of the Commonwealth Games are a matter of debate, but Martin did not want to dwell on the subject. “All I’m going to say is we’re a family,” she said. “Our 72 nations and territories, we all speak the same language.
“There’s no doubt about the feelings or anything like that. We’re all in this together.”
With thousands of athletes arriving in Birmingham, the sport must at least be attractive. After Thursday night’s opening ceremony, games begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The individual triathlons will headline the opening day a few hours later, with Olympic silver medalist Alex Yee in action.
One of the biggest spectacles of the Games will be the return of swimmer Adam Peaty, who suffered a foot injury that forced him to withdraw from the World Aquatics Championships in June. With the 100m breaststroke starting on Saturday, he will be chasing a third straight Commonwealth title.
Even with Dina Asher-Smith out with a slight hamstring strain, it’s fair to say the sprint should be faster than ever. Jamaica’s Shelley-Anne Fraser-Pryce and Sherika Jackson, fresh from winning the 100m and 200m at the world championships with times of 10.67sec and 21.45 respectively, will be in Birmingham along with Elaine Thompson-Hera. Both women’s Games records, 10.85 in the 100m and 22.09 in the 200m, are at serious risk.
A number of other World Nations athletes will be in Birmingham, including Laura Moore, Keeley Hodgkinson and heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
In gymnastics, Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan will defend his pommel horse title. The men’s and women’s all-around finals will be held on August 1, marking the return of Claudia Fragapane, the four-time Commonwealth gold medalist in 2014, as well as Alice Kinsella, the only member of the 2020 bronze Olympic team to attend .
The atmosphere at the Commonwealth Games is always vastly different from other events. Para-athletes will compete in the same stages as everyone else, while there will be more medals for women (136) than for men (134). Unlike an Olympic Games or World Cup, there are no specific medal targets for Team England or others, with the organization simply stressing the goal of getting the team as prepared as possible. It will be intriguing to see where each of the home nations falls.