Story highlightsThe Games are regarded by some as an enduring reminder of British imperialismThere have been protests during the GamesCommonwealth Games Federation says it has done a lot of ‘soul-searching’
Gold Coast, Australia (CNN)The Commonwealth Games could hardly have been held in a more idyllic setting.
Australia’s Gold Coast, a city of never-ending golden beaches and sunshine has welcomed visitors from all over the world. This was a multi-sport event in Queensland, a state whose mantra is: beautiful one day, perfect the next. Follow @cnnsport These Games have not been perfect, of course, but no major international sporting event is. There have been complaints from restauranteurs about a downturn in profits, while taxi drivers also talked of a reduction in income during the 11-day event. As the Commonwealth flew into the city, the natives appeared to flock out. But has the Gold Coast Games made an often-criticized international event more relevant? Read MoreREAD: Ugandan defies cultural norms to chase dreamREAD: How lawn bowls saved Tongan bowler’s life‘A Games with a social conscience’The Games are regarded by some as an enduring reminder of British imperialism. After all, it is a competition comprising of 71 nations and territories which once formed part of the British Empire. JUST WATCHEDWhat are the Commonwealth Games?ReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
What are the Commonwealth Games? 01:23Aware that perceptions must change if this event, which is in its ninth decade, is to thrive, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has used Gold Coast 2018 — held on a floodplain which was once home to various Indigenous families — to promote social change. “We’ve gone through a journey in the past several years,” David Grevemberg, CGF chief executive, tells CNN Sport. “We’ve been soul searching about our narrative – who are we and what do we want to be.”The Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games was one of the low points in the history of the event. Engulfed by controversy, there were criticisms about spending millions on a sporting event in a country with extreme poverty. There were also construction delays, infrastructure problems and poor ticket sales. “Post-Delhi a lot of soul searching was done, in terms of the relevance of the Commonwealths and the Games,” Grevemberg says. Photos: Jonathan Brownlee of England (left) and Alistair Brownlee look dejected after the men’s triathlon.Hide Caption 1 of 11 Photos: Alistair Brownlee (L) and Jonathan Brownlee of England compete with Tayler Reid of New Zealand in the mens triathlon.Hide Caption 2 of 11 Photos: South Africa’s Henri Schoeman poses with his country’s flag after winning the men’s triathlon final.Hide Caption 3 of 11 Photos: Alia Atkinson of Jamaica smiles following the women’s 50m breaststroke semifinal.Hide Caption 4 of 11 Photos: Sam Welsford of Australia celebrates winning gold in the men’s 4000m team pursuit gold final.Hide Caption 5 of 11 Photos: Chanu Saikhom Mirabai of India competes during the weightlifting women’s 48kg final.Hide Caption 6 of 11 Photos: Nile Wilson of England competes on the parallel bars in the men’s team final and individual qualification during the artistic gymnastics.Hide Caption 7 of 11 Photos: Ameliaranne Ekenasio of New Zealand shoots during the netball match between New Zealand and Uganda.Hide Caption 8 of 11 Photos: Rebecca Condie of Scotland and Shiloh Gloyn of New Zealand compete for the ball during the Pool B hockey match between New Zealand and Scotland.Hide Caption 9 of 11 Photos: Kalombo Mulenga and Chongo Mulenga of Zambia compete against Aatish Lubah and Christopher Jean Paul of Mauritius during the badminton mixed team group play stage.Hide Caption 10 of 11 Photos: The New Zealand women’s fours team of Katelyn Inch, Tayla Bruce, Val Smith and Mandy Boyd in their game against Jersey in the team lawn bowls.Hide Caption 11 of 11For Grevemberg the future of the Games lies in talking about the Commonwealth’s colonial past.”What we’ve tried to do is use the platform of a major Games to create a safe place for courageous conversations and bold action,” says the Louisiana native who lives in Scotland and works in London. “The platform of the Games, on the Gold Coast, on the land of Indigenous people, with the whole public discourse of reconciliation in Australia — why would we take the opportunity to miss the opportunity, particularly knowing where the Commonwealth has come from. It’s like walking into a room full of elephants and pretending they’re not there. “We have to be bigger than that, be better than that, if we truly want to have the impact we want.”We all have this history, it’s what we do with it. “By attacking some of these issues straight on, by creating a willingness to listen to people, we really can change the dial. If you haven’t created a strong granite foundation for all people, it’ll always be a fragile base.”Protests, confronting the pastThe Games’ opening ceremony focused much on Australia’s Indigenous culture. It was a reminder that the host nation’s past did not begin some 200 years ago with colonial rule.There was backlash — mainly from those complaining about too much Indigenous content — but Grevemberg has since said he would not change a thing. Though there has been little controversy surrounding these Games, there has nevertheless been protests. Photos: It’s showtime!The opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 4, 2018 gets underway.Hide Caption 1 of 20 Photos: Performers and dancers showcased the easy-going Australian lifestyle. Hide Caption 2 of 20 Photos: There was a nod to the worldwide image of Australia: golden beaches, surfboards, emus and kangaroos.Hide Caption 3 of 20 Photos: The opening ceremony celebrated the Gold Coast’s Yugambeh people, Aboriginal clans of south-east Queensland. Hide Caption 4 of 20 Photos: Seventy one nations and territories will compete in the 21st Commonwealth Games.Hide Caption 5 of 20 Photos: A smoking ceremony — an ancient tradition in Indigenous culture — was performed.Hide Caption 6 of 20 Photos: Still widely practiced among many Indigenous Australians, the custom involves the burning of various native plants to connect with good spirits.Hide Caption 7 of 20 Photos: Luther Cora, a contemporary Aboriginal artist, and his family also conducted a traditional smoking ceremony.Hide Caption 8 of 20 Photos: Members of the South Africa delegation get into the spirit of the opening ceremony. South Africa finished the 2014 games with 13 gold medals. Hide Caption 9 of 20 Photos: Members of the Canadian team take the obligatory selfie.Hide Caption 10 of 20 Photos: Sixty seven athletes make up the Cameroon team.Hide Caption 11 of 20 Photos: Members of the Uganda delegation.Hide Caption 12 of 20 Photos: Sierra Leone’s flagbearer Hafsatu Kamara leads the delegation during the opening ceremony.Hide Caption 13 of 20 Photos: Kurt Fearnley showcases the Queen’s Baton, which left Buckingham Palace in March 2017 and traveled for 388 days and 143 thousand miles through the entire Commonwealth. Hide Caption 14 of 20 Photos: The Australian team arrives during the opening ceremony.Hide Caption 15 of 20 Photos: Australia’s flagbearer was Mark Knowle, who is the men’s hockey captain.Hide Caption 16 of 20 Photos: Australian singer Delta Goodrem was one of the performers in the opening ceremony.Hide Caption 17 of 20 Photos: No opening ceremony would be complete without a firework display.Hide Caption 18 of 20 Photos: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (L) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales opened Gold Coast 2018 on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, who is the head of the Commonwealth of countries and territories.Hide Caption 19 of 20 Photos: There are 275 gold medals to compete for … on your marks …Hide Caption 20 of 20READ: Eight Cameroon athletes go missing at Australia’s Commonwealth GamesREAD: Mary Kom: Get to know India’s boxing superstarAn Aboriginal group set up camp on the Gold Coast, a continuation of demonstrations from the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 and the rallies of the 1982 Games in Brisbane. There were demonstrations during the Queen’s Baton relay and before the opening ceremony, with protestors wanting to draw international attention to Australia’s colonial history and the social injustices its First Nations peoples still experience. On basic standards of living, from health to education and employment, Australia’s Indigenous population is being left behind. Life expectancy is lower, while infant mortality rates and maternal mortality is far higher than that of the general population. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I know Australia has a lot of discussion right now and a broader debate on racism,” says Grevemberg of the protests. ‘There’s a lot of work to be done. People who have felt trauma and anger from the past, to give people the opportunity to express themselves in a peaceful manner is very reflective of the modern Commonwealth.”A smoking ceremony — an ancient tradition in Indigenous culture — was performed at the opening ceremony.Will the Commonwealth Games continue to make a difference on the Gold Coast once the grandstands have been dismantled and the focused switched to Birmingham in 2022?”In 2015, 71 territories unanimously agreed to a new vision of the organization, put it on the line that we want to build peaceful, sustainable, and prosperous communities globally, not just the Commonwealth,” says Grevemberg.”We want to be a trailblazer that can influence other countries and nations worldwide.”There’s various degrees of discourse and turbulence out there, but we want to be the consistent beacon for these types of conversations and, more importantly, action.”The CGF has yet to provide CNN with requested details of how many members of the Indigenous population have worked at the Games. “We will be taking the lessons learned from here and instigating a number of initiatives with Indigenous communities across the Commonwealth in terms of discourse and discussion in how we establish a declaration in Indigenous reconciliation through sport,” added Grevemberg.”One of the things we’ve already done in our host city contract, for 2022 and beyond, is that if you do host the Commonwealth Games there’s a requirement that you promote and respect Indigenous people. It’s obligatory. That’s putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak.”Too costly to host?The question many ask, however is: who can afford to host the Games? Five of the last six Games have been hosted in either the UK or Australia, two of the world’s most affluent nations. Durban — which was set to become the first African city to host an event which was first held in 1930 — was stripped of its right to hold the Games in four years’ time as the South African city did not meet the criteria set by the CGF. JUST WATCHEDRecord Breakers: Dane Bird-SmithReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Record Breakers: Dane Bird-Smith 00:59Few rushed to replace Durban as hosts, with the English city of Birmingham eventually winning the bid. Hosting the Games will not come cheaply for England’s second most populous city, with the projected overall cost of the Games running to a reported $1 billion. “Ten of the top 20 emerging cities are in the Commonwealth so there’ s huge opportunities there,” said Grevemberg of potential future hosts. “We’re no longer the men and women of Del Monte coming to inspect the fruit and acting as auditor general. “We’re now actually partners with cities and working in tandem with them to reduce costs and make the Games more affordable and amplify the value of the event. “We brought Glasgow 2014 in £37m [$53.7m] below budget and that wasn’t by accident.”Do major stars still cherish the Commonwealths?There is also the issue of whether the world’s biggest stars regard the Commonwealth Games as a priority in an increasingly crammed sporting calendar. Canada’s Andre de Grasse, 200m silver and 100m bronze Olympic medalist, widely regarded as Usain Bolt’s heir apparent, was missing as he wanted to “be ready for a strong and full outdoor season.”Kenya’s 800m world record holder David Rudisha and two-time 1500m Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop were also absent, as were their country’s elite marathon runners. Injury prevented cycling great Mark Cavendish, Australian favorite Sally Pearson and Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk from competing. JUST WATCHEDRecord Breakers: Alex PorterReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Record Breakers: Alex Porter 00:59″Because of the timing of this event in the southern hemisphere — it’s the start of the season in the northern hemisphere — there is difficulty, but you’ve got the top netball teams, Rugby Sevens teams,” says Grevemberg. “It’s the beginning of the season and that’s something, as we move forward, we need to take that into account to optimize the timing.”Do we run it in October, September to synchronize better with the athletes’ scheduling?”I’m very happy with the number of athletes. I’m really confident that what we’ve started here is something that can continue to manifest into our youth games and into Birmingham 2022.”