The Commonwealth Games are officially underway. The opening ceremony kicked off what is to be one of the progressive multi-discipline sporting events to date on Australia’s Gold Coast this morning.
More than 4,500 athletes have made their way to the Gold Coast to compete in the 21st Commonwealth Games and, for the first time in the event’s 88 year history, an equal number of medals will be up for grabs for male and female participants.
Australia will be hosting 133 men’s events, 133 women’s events and nine mixed events, offering both sexes the opportunity to claim 142 medals.
This will be the first ever multi-discipline sports event to offer medal equality.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow, Scotland, currently holds the record. On that occasion, women competed for 48.5% of all available medals.
The Commonwealth Games’ push for equality hasn’t only focused on the athletes. More than 50% of technical officials officiating basketball, hockey and swimming events will be female.
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Likewise, the Commonwealth Games Federation has also launched the Women’s Coaching Internship Programme. This initiative will integrate 19 female coaches from 11 countries within their respective organisations, where they will receive on-the-ground training at the Games to help develop the next generation of leading female coaches.
The Commonwealth Games Federation website reads:
“Our dynamic sporting movement has an important part to play in an energised, engaged and empowered Commonwealth of Nations and Territories – and we are working hard to explore how Commonwealth sport and everyone in our diverse sporting family can better deliver for women and girls.”
The 2018 Games will also deliver the largest number of disability sports events at a Commonwealth Games to date.
What was said:
Announcing the intention to offer an equal number of medals back in 2016, Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin said:
“We’ve come a long way since the first Games in 1930, when women competed in just seven medal events.”
“I’m so proud that the CGF, GOLDOC, the Australian Commonwealth Games Association and our International Federation colleagues have worked together to close the gender gap in time for Gold Coast 2018 – and present an equal number of medal moments for men and women for the first time ever at a major Games.”
Stirling Hinchliffe, Australia’s Minister for the Commonwealth Games, said:
“This is a tremendous boost to world sport. This decision sets the standard for greater gender equality in sport and more broadly in society.”
David Grevemberg, chief executive of the CGF, said:
“From our standpoint we’re more relevant now than ever before for the things that have historically challenged the Commonwealth, to the ambitions and aspirations that this Commonwealth looks to uphold: peace, prosperity, good governance and human rights.”
Why it matters:
Questions are always raised about the Commonwealth Games, particularly why it is still held, given its colonialist beginnings.
The federation maintains that the Games are about bringing people together and uniting athletes, citizens and communities. Achieving medal equality, as well as providing more opportunities for disabled athletes to compete, supports their claim. Regardless of its past, the competition is doing its part to improve sports.
The Commonwealth Games will begin on Wednesday, 4 April, and end of Sunday, 15 April. Athletes will compete in a range of sports, including athletics, gymnastics, boxing and squash. The full list of events can be found here.
Despite Gold Coast 2018 achieving a number of firsts, it has done little to convince sports fans to turn out. Just hours before the event was set to get underway, the Guardian newspaper reported that a number of tickets remained unsold.
Mark Peters, CEO of the CGF, has confirmed that 140,000 tickets remain on sale.