2022 Commonwealth Games

Comprehension Activities

Members of the Commonwealth: https://thecommonwealth.org/our-member-countries
The Queen’s Baton route: https://www.birmingham2022.com/queens-baton-relay/route
The Queen’s Baton video: https://7plus.com.au/birmingham-2022-commonwealth-games?video-id=CGB1-X7QXT-5YIA1

There are 72 teams from 56 member countries… Australia is gunning for the top of the medal tally… and our youngest athlete is just fourteen. This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to the 2022 Commonwealth Games—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Amanda Bower.

And I’m Claire Kimball

Claire’s from our big sister podcast Squiz Today, and she’s standing in for Bryce who’s caught a lurgy… Thanks for joining me…

Thanks for having me!

Around 5,000 athletes from 72 countries and territories – including more than 400 Aussies – are set to compete in the Commonwealth Games, which kick off on July 28 in Birmingham, England, and run until August 8. Claire, there have been 19 Commonwealth Games held so far, and Australia has topped the medal table in 11 of them. This year, they’re hoping for a twelfth turn as the best in the Commonwealth.

Today, we’ll take you through WHAT, exactly, the Commonwealth is; HOW these games are different from the Olympics; and WHO to watch in the Aussies’ chase for gold.

Listen carefully – there’s a Squiz at the end!

Claire, I thought the answer to this one would be easy – I’d always assumed that the Commonwealth was made up of all the countries and territories that belong, or once belonged, to Britain … you know, back when Britain was a major world power, and went around in ships claiming and colonising places for the British Empire.

That’s not it?

Nope! For starters, there are 90 former colonies. Add to that the 16 countries for which the Queen is still the head of state – like Australia…

Okay, that’s 106.

And then depending on how you count them, there are at least a dozen British territories as well. Plus the United Kingdom, of course…

Okay, so there are well over 110 countries or territories that were once, or still are, part of the British Empire. But you’re telling me that’s not what makes the official Commonwealth?

I was as surprised as you are! The Commonwealth of Nations, usually referred to just as the Commonwealth, is a voluntary organisation made up of just 56 countries, with every one of them having an equal voice, no matter how small the country.

That’s only around half of those former British countries and territories!

Yep. Some have combined to form one country… some, like Hong Kong, which is now part of China, or Somalia, in Africa, either never joined the Commonwealth, or have left it. And there are two fairly new members—Rwanda and Mozambique, also in Africa—that were NEVER British colonies! They decided to join the Commonwealth to strengthen their relationship with Britain and the other nations.

Right… so does a country have to be a member of the Commonwealth to send athletes to the Commonwealth Games?

Yes. But this is where it gets really confusing. From those 56 Commonwealth members, we get 72 teams attending the Commonwealth Games! That’s because Scotland, Wales, Northern Island, Gibraltar, and other territories that are part of the United Kingdom get to represent themselves at the Games.

But at the Olympics, they’re all part of Team Great Britain. HOW else are the Commonwealth Games different from the Olympic Games?

Well, some people might say that they’re not as prestigious, because the whole world isn’t invited. But the Commonwealth is home to 2.5 BILLION people! So being the best among them is nothing to sneeze at. On top of that, one third of all people aged between 15 and 29 live in Commonwealth countries. Considering most athletes are pretty young – that being when your body is performing at its best – that means the quality of competition is still really high.

Yep, I’d be pretty proud if I had a medal from the Commonwealth games! Are the sports all the same as at the Olympics?

No – there are fewer sports – 19 Commonwealth Games sports this year, compared with 33 at the Summer Games in Tokyo. That’s another key difference, Claire – there are no winter Commonwealth Games.

And even though there are fewer sports, there are some that aren’t contested at the Olympics, like netball, squash, ten pin bowling, and lawn bowls.

I’m a big fan of including netball. But I’m the BIGGEST fan of the fact that the Commonwealth Games holds the able-bodied and para events at the same time. The Paralympics, you might remember, is held AFTER the Olympics, so the athletes don’t get to mix and learn from each other. But at the Commonwealth Games, there’s no separate event or ticket for para-sport events. AND, a medal won by a para-athlete contributes to a nation’s medal tally in exactly the same way as an able-bodied athlete’s. In 2018, para athletes contributed 46 medals to Australia’s chart-topping total.

That inclusivity is a REALLY great thing.

It sure is – yay for the Commonwealth Games. Now Claire, there are also similarities between the Olympic and Commonwealth games. They both have opening and closing ceremonies, mascots, and mottos. And where the Olympics has a torch relay, the Commonwealth Games has the Queen’s Baton – a Baton being the thing that you hold and hand off in a relay. I’ll put a link in your episode notes to a map of the 2022 baton’s route, as well as a video showing it making its way to all 72 countries and territories participating in the Games. It passes through African villages, Indian tea plantations… and was in Australia for four days in March. Swimming legend Ian Thorpe got a turn carrying it in Sydney…

Ah, yes… speaking of swimming, and legends – I hear that Emma McKeon, who won four gold Olympic medals in Tokyo, could beat Ian Thorpe (and Susie O’Neill’s) record for most golds at a single Commonwealth Games: six. WHO else should we be watching on the Aussie team?

Another way of asking that question is who shouldn’t we be watching? At the last Commonwealth Games in 2018, which were held at the Gold Coast, Australia won gold medals in 15 of the 19 sports. And there are 38 Aussie athletes heading off to England who are back to defend the Commonwealth gold medals they won in 2018.

We always do well in the pool – Olympic gold medallists Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown and Zac Stubblety-Cook are on the Dolphins team for Birmingham, and they’re joined by eight Paralympic gold medallists, including the legendary Ellie Cole, Lakeisha Patterson, and Ben Hance.

Over on the track, all eyes will be on Madison de Rozario, who sped her wheelchair first across the line in the marathon AND the 1500m at the last Commonwealth Games, and won gold at the Paralympics in the marathon and 800 metres, and bronze in the 1500. She is definitely a hot favourite. Among the able-bodied athletes, we’ll be cheering on 800 metres gun Peter Bol, who did so well in Tokyo, as well as Matt Denny in the discus, pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall and high jumper Brandon Starc.

Our youngest competitor is 14-year-old Melbourne diver Charli Petrov and the oldest is 63-year-old Queensland lawn bowler Cheryl Lindfield.

And we have a record number of indigenous atheltes on the Aussie team, from hockey player Mariah Wilson, to weightlifer Brandon Wakeling, to beach volleyballer Taliqua Clancy.

And for those of you who like playing sport with your siblings, get this: there are three lots of siblings going to the Games: Angela and Jack Yu are both representing Australia in badminton, Nathan and Josh Katz will be there for judo; and Madison and Teagan Levi play together in the rugby sevens.

I reckon the only thing that could be more fun than going to the Commonwealth Games is going with your sibling! Claire, there are 284 athletes heading to their first ever Commonwealth games – they’re making their debut, so you’ll hear them called debutants – a little vocab for you there. And there are two athletes who are going for the sixth time: table tennis legend Jian Fang Lay and squash player Rachael Grinham. They’re the first Aussie women to have racked up six Commonwealth Games uniforms. Speaking of uniforms, Claire, here’s a fun fact: our 435 Aussie team members have 59, 567 pieces of official apparel between them… and the Dolphins swim squad have 204 pairs of goggles and 248 swim caps in their luggage.

Definitely don’t want to forget them.

Nothing worse than red eyes from the pool.

This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening…
1. Where will this year’s Commonwealth Games be held?
2. Name one sport played at the Commonwealth Games, but never at the Olympics.
3. In which sport is Australia’s youngest athlete, Charli Petrov, competing?