Commonwealth Games open in Gold Coast — the Common-WHAT?

Wednesday night in the sixth-largest city of Australia, a quadrennial celebration of sport got underway.

No, not the Olympics. We just did that.

No, not the World Cup. That’s coming up in Russia in June.

The Commonwealth Games.

You’ve probably never heard of it before. But it’s an event that gathers the nations of the British Commonwealth. And in Gold Coast, Australia, over 6,600 athletes from over 60 member nations and territories will compete in 275 medal events over the next 11 days.

The HBO show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, famously poked fun at this festival of sport four years ago when the event was held in Glasgow.

But the Commonwealth Games Federation wants you to know that the movement, known to many as ‘The Friendly Games’, are more relevant now more than ever.

The Gold Coast 2018 Games began with an opening ceremony, which featured many of the typical elements you’d find at an Olympics. A Parade of Nations. Musical Performances. Speeches. Fireworks.

Unlike an Olympic Games, there is no flame or cauldron. Instead, an oversized and elaborate stick known as “The Queen’s Baton” gets passed around from Buckingham Palace to the site of the Commonwealth Games. Then the baton is opened to reveal a message placed by the Queen when the relay began months earlier. Usually, Her Majesty herself reads the message but for the second time in three editions, Prince Charles opened the games on her behalf.

As for the competition, there are the typical sports you’d see at any multi-sport event. Swimming, athletics, gymnastics. Then there are the sports that are unique to the Commonwealth, like netball and lawn bowls. Para-sport is integrated into the Games schedule as well.

The United States, though obviously not part of the Commonwealth (something about a Revolutionary War in the 18th century), will have unprecedented access to the Games. ESPN will livestream many of the events from Gold Coast, including marquee sports such as athletics, swimming, cycling and beach volleyball.

So if baseball and the Masters golf tournament aren’t your cup of tea, be sure to check out the 21st Commonwealth Games. You might be impressed at the talent the British Empire has to offer.

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