Commonwealth Games still a worthy event in its own right

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-8-4 22:28:01

The past week was a very lively one in sports in some parts of the world though some of us may not have noticed.

Even in soccer, which for most major leagues, now is a post-World Cup off-season. But in the US, over 100,000 packed a stadium to watch Manchester United take on Real Madrid, though it was a club friendly. This was one game in a ­series in which several top European teams played across the US and Canada, drawing massive crowds. However, the main ­action was in Glasgow, Scotland, where the Commonwealth Games ran until Sunday.

The Commonwealth Games bring together countries of the Commonwealth, in other words, the UK and most of the countries it used to rule and colonize. As such, it is a reminder of bygone times when the Union Jack ruled an empire that spanned the world.

But with athletes and teams from 71 countries and territories with a combined population of over 2 billion, it's safe to say the games does have relevance for some people. Putting memories of the British empire aside, it's still a nice concept to have countries, ranging from Canada to India to Nigeria to Kiribati, a small Pacific island nation which incidentally just won its first-ever Commonwealth medal last week, participate on the same stage in multiple disciplines.

Now critics can say don't we already have the Olympics and aren't they much more famous, and they'd be right to an extent. But while the Commonwealth Games are not as famous as the Olympics, they also don't have anywhere near the corruption, wasteful spending (by host cities) and commercialism of the latter. The Commonwealth Games also don't have athletic juggernauts like the US, Russia and China hogging all the podium finishes and glory as well.

This provides an opportunity for nations that always underperform at the Olympics like India and Nigeria to shine. India won a whopping 64 medals at the games alone compared to 25 Olympics medals all-time. Even tiny Singapore won 17 medals at this event.

Meanwhile, coming back to soccer, teams like Manchester United, Liverpool and AC Milan are playing in a friendly tournament in North America, the grandly named International Champions Cup. Of course, the main purpose is financial since the US is a lucrative market, despite the travel hassle as United coach Louis van Gaal griped about two weeks ago.

On Saturday, Manchester United beat Real Madrid in front of almost 110,000 spectators, the biggest for a soccer game in the US. And earlier on July 23, over 86,000 showed up in Los Angeles when the Red Devils crushed hometown team LA Galaxy 7-0 in an exhibition.

The US has traditionally not been a major soccer-loving country, with soccer previously being considered a game mainly for kids. Times are changing though and with growing ­soccer viewership, the US team's recent run in the World Cup and the massive attendances for these club friendlies, I think it's safe to say that is becoming an outmoded stereotype.

Whether it be bringing together vestiges of an old global entity or moving into a vast new market, there will always be more room for sport in this world.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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