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British Empire Games

Last modified: 2014-04-16 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: british empire | commonwealth of nations | commonwealth games | international organization |
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British Empire Games Flag
image by Dean Thomas, 18 May 2002

See also:

Origin of the flag

 The British Empire Games Association of Canada donated the flag during the inaugural games in Hamilton, 1930.
(Source: Commonwealth Games Council of England )
Dean Thomas,
17 May 2002


The British Empire Games was  thought to be inspired by the Reverend Astley Cooper. In July 1891 he wrote in "Greater Britain" magazine and later on 31st October 1891 in "The Times" suggesting a "Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival ... every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire".   It was to be another 40 years however before the first Games took place.

The events, which later took place that eventually led to the establishment of the British Empire Games, are chronicled below:

Festival of the Empire: Mr Richard Coombes (President of Amateur Athletic Union of Australia) brought attention to the value of an "Empire Sports" tournament.

Inter-Empire Championships Part of the "Festival of the Empire" held to mark the coronation of King George V in London. Teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa and United Kingdom competed in Athletics, Boxing, Swimming  and Wrestling.

First steps to organize Games Mr MM (Bobby) Robinson from Canada was called upon to organize the first British Empire Games following the Olympic Games in Holland. A meeting of representatives from all the Empire countries  was held.

The first Empire Games held in Hamilton, Canada. Competing countries included: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales,  Australia, Bermuda, British Guiana, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa.
The sports program included:  Athletics, Boxing, Lawn Bowls, Rowing, Swimming, and Wrestling.

Over the ensuing years many changes have occurred to the "Games" which has allowed them to grow and modernize as the "Empire" became the "Commonwealth". The British Empire Games remained as such until 1950 when it became "The British Empire and Commonwealth Games" to acknowledge the many countries and dominions that had been able to claim their "independence". After the name change to "British Empire and Commonwealth Games" took place, the British Empire Games Flag was retired and a new one introduced for the next Games (Vancouver, 1954).

Union Jack at the Empire Games

[Union Jack]
image by Clay Moss, 16 December 2006

When the athletes marched into the Stadium at the Opening Ceremony, the basic format was the same as for the Olympic Games with the athletes marching behind their own national flags, but the entire parade of athletes was led in by a flagbearer carrying the Union Jack, symbolizing that the nations were part of the British Empire (as was stated at the 1934 Empire Games in London: "For the Honor of Our Empire and for the Glory of Sport".  A pledge of allegiance to the King and an oath of sportsmanship was taken on this flag as well: "From many parts of the British Empire, we are here assembled as amateur athletes to compete in friendly competition. We pledge our best endeavors to uphold the honor of our country and the glorious traditions of British Sportsmanship".