ABUJA (NAN) Thousands of the world top athletes will from Wednesday compete for honours at the 20th Commonwealth Games holding in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to Aug. 3.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary intergovernmental association of 53 member states, almost all of which were formerly ruled by Britain, directly or indirectly.
Therefore, the group encompasses nations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
The states involved agree to share a common set of values and ideals, and acknowledge a shared history and traditional trade links.
Its name dates back to the 19th century, when in 1884 the British Empire was first described as the ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ by British Liberal Politician, Lord Roseberry in Adelaide, Australia during a famous speech.
As states under British rule gained independence at the start of the 20th century, they became self-governing, while remaining in the Commonwealth and retaining Britain’s monarch as Head of State.
In the Commonwealth Games, dubbed the third largest in the world, only after the Olympics and the Asian Games, more than 4,900 athletes from 71 nations will compete in 17 sports.
The sports include; aquatics, athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, hockey judo, lawn bowls, netball, rugby sevens, shooting, squash, table tennis, triathlon, weightlifting and wrestling.
It is also worthy of note that over 35 per cent of countries participating in the games are from the African continent.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Nigeria has competed in 11 Commonwealth Games since 1950, but did not attend the 1962, 1978, 1986 and 1998 Games.
Nigeria has won at least one medal at every Games attended including a high of 37 in 1994.
The first medal in 1950 was won by Joshua Majekodunmi in the High Jump.
In 2010 at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, Nigeria amassed a total of 33 medals including 11 gold, 8 silver and 14 bronze medals, finishing in 9th position.
However, about 85 per cent of the medals were won by the Para-athletes.
A total number of 127 athletes (65 male and 62 female) will represent Nigeria in this year’s edition of the Commonwealth Games.
Team Nigeria will feature in eight sports – Athletics, Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling, Weightlifting, Table Tennis, Para Athletics and Para Power lifting.
Athletics has 46 athletes (22 male, 24 female), followed by Weightlifting with 16 athletes (8 male, 7 female).
Shooting has 15 athletes (9 male and 7 female), while wrestling will be represented by 14 athletes (7male, 7female).
Further breakdown shows Boxing to be presenting 11 athletes (8 male, 3 female) with Table Tennis having 10 athletes (5 male, 5 female).
Para Athletics has 9 athletes (3 male, 6 female), while Para-Power lifting presented the least with 6 athletes (3 male, 3 female).
There have been a lot of public outcries about the number of sports being competed for in this edition.
Many sport analysts have wondered why Nigeria cannot compete in sports like Taekwondo which the country is very good in and can get at least five medals from.
They argue that with the likes of the Chukwumerije brothers, the country stands a chance of picking medals.
Speaking on the issue, Tunde Popoola, the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), told NAN that the committee had to concentrate on the area of the country’s strength.
“However, for other sports like Taekwondo and the likes, there were just not enough funds to sponsor the athletes,’’ he said.
He said that the NOC was taken the Commonwealth games seriously, adding that it was a litmus test for the country’s athletes ahead of the Olympic Games.
“The games are a prelude to the Olympics as various countries use the games to prepare their athletes for the next Olympic Games.
“It is also a developmental stage for the young athletes. For instance, Usain Bolt who is a household name in athletics today participated in the games for Jamaica at the age of 17.
“So, our athletes are not just going to the games to participate but to develop themselves and also win medals for the country,’’ he said.
Popoola also said that he was confident that with hard work and luck, the athletes could improve on the 10 gold, eight silver and 14 bronze medals they won at the last edition in India.
“For me, I believe we can achieve more than what we recorded in 2010 since we are focusing and competing in sports we are good in.
“The athletes have been working hard and I pray luck is on our side this time around.’’
Indeed, the 2014 Commonwealth Games will certainly be more than just a fiesta as 71 nations compete for glory and honour.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Allison Curbishley