The Commonwealth Games (formerly Empire Games) is the world’s third largest sporting event in terms of number of countries, sports, and athletes involved (5,000), exceeded only by the Olympics and the World Cup. Not even the Asian Games, African Games, or Panamerican Games is as large. Several times Commonwealth countries have used it as a way to demonstrate their capability to host the Olympic games, which have been awarded a few years later (e.g. Canada, Australia, England).
Like the olympics and other large events, the CGs are a large financial undertaking, so the only countries that bid to be hosts are those wealthy enough and capable of build the infrastructure and host the athletes. Of the twenty two CG’s held in the past and in 2022, only three were held outside the UK, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand: India, Jamaica, and Malaysia. Of the seventy countries or independently competing regions (e.g. Isle of Man) in 2022, many across Africa, Asia, and the Carribean are still developing countries and could not afford to host them. South Africa, Nigeria, or Kenya could, but they have never put forth a successful bid. Singapore could as well financially, but lacks the available space and air quality.
Many of these smaller and less wealthy countries are still vehemently and even violently opposed to LGBTQIA human rights. The head of the CGF says such countries could be refused the right to host the games.
In an interview with BBC Sport, Katie Sadleir, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), has said that she wants to hear athletes’ views on whether future Commonwealth Games should be held in countries with discriminatory laws against the LGBT+ community.
“We’re very open to them in terms of what our next steps are, in terms of understanding our hosting strategy and where we go in terms of our meetings.”
“But this is the beginning, and I’m looking forward to hearing about what more we should be doing as a movement.”
At next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, LGBT+ athletes may be able to fly the flag on the podium. These considerations are part of the Commonwealth Games’ efforts to become more inclusive, Sadleir said.
They would be excluded from hosting? Is that supposed to be a threat or a punishment?
It’s an empty gesture. Why not bar those countries from participating until they change their laws, as South Africa was until 1994 after apartheid ended? If it’s good enough a rule for EU membership, why not for the Commonwealth? Oh, right. Brexit.
Many of the most violently anti-LGBTQIA Commonwealth countries are either run by political and religious fanatics or are poor, or both. (England, Nigeria, Kenya, and Malaysia are wealthy.) Countries with hate laws on their books like Ghana, Mauritius, Eswatini, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Zambia, and others couldn’t afford to host the games, but they absolutely want to participate. For many, this is their biggest appearance on the world’s sporting stage. The threat of exclusion could change their attitudes. Since 2017, Botswana has legalized non-cishetero sex and recognized gender reassignment.
The most galling thing about these hate laws is that it was the imperialist, hypocritical, and prudish Victorian English that imposed laws upon the countries they occupied. The hate laws should have been repealed when the occupiers left, but instead became ingrained in said countries’ cultures.