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Commonwealth Games - Melbourne 2006

Cathy Freeman, face of 2006 Commonwealth Games

Cathy Freeman, with the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games identity logo. Photograph courtesy of Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation.

The XVIII Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne from 15 to 26 March 2006. The Games ran for 12 days, with 71 countries and 4,500 athletes taking part in 16 sports.

Melbourne is the fourth Australian city to host the Commonwealth Games, after Sydney in 1938, Perth in 1962 and Brisbane in 1982.

Often hailed as the sports and cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne has a long history of staging major events, from the Olympic Games, held in 1956, to Grand Slam tennis and Formula One, which are held every year. Melbourne's resident population of around 3.5 million are strong supporters of sport and regularly known to fill stadiums to capacity for Australian Football League matches and other sporting events.

The Games opened with a grand ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) which was also the site of the Game's track and field events, and the closing ceremony on 26 March. The MCG was also where the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics were held. After recent renovations the MCG holds a capacity crowd in excess of 100,000.

An identity logo (pictured right), designed to celebrate sport and culture, was created for the Games.

Sports and athletes

Six of the original sports of the Commonwealth Games - track and field, boxing, bowls, rowing, swimming/diving, and wrestling - were contested in 2006.

The Team sports for 2006 were hockey, rugby 7s, netball and basketball, which made its first appearance as a medal sport in Melbourne. Table tennis, mountain bike and triathlon were also included after making their debut at the last Commonwealth Games, held in Manchester. Competition was held in venues in and around Melbourne's central business district.

During the Games, athletes lived in a specially constructed Village located on a 20-hectare site in the prestigious inner suburb of Parkville. The Games Village was a specially constructed housing development incorporating high-standard urban design and facilities. Its location and parkland setting was designed to make athletes and team officials feel like they were living in a home away from home'.

A gathering of people

photo of Queen

The Queen's Baton on its way to Antarctica on board the Aurora Australis, Australia's Antarctic flagship. Photograph courtesy of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation.

The Queen's Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games - having been the curtain-raiser to every games since Cardiff, Wales, in 1958. The relay symbolises the gathering of people from across the Commonwealth at the four-yearly festival of sport and culture.

The baton arrived in Australia on 24 January 2006. It had travelled more than 180,000 kilometres and visited all 71 nations of the Commonwealth in one year and one day. This makes the Melbourne 2006 Queen's Baton Relay the world's longest, most inclusive relay.

In the opening ceremony, the baton travelled around the stadium in the hands of athletic champions Cathy Freeman, Ron Clarke and Marjorie Jackson-Nelson. Recently retired Australian athlete Cathy Freeman was the face of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The baton was presented to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II by the Governor of Victoria, and former Olympian, John Landy.

Cathy Freeman continues to be a symbol of Australia's sporting prowess. She was the focus of world attention when she lit the flame at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and went on to win a Gold medal on the track in the 400m race.

Festival Melbourne 2006

Photo by Ashok Nath Dey, India, 2003 Commonwealth Photographic Awards

Ashok Nath Dey, 2003 Commonwealth Photographic Awards, India. Image courtesy of the Commonwealth Photographic Awards: Best of the Best exhibition.

Action and entertainment during the Games was not limited to sport. Melbourne came alive with dancers, singers, actors, and musicians from each of the 71 Commonwealth Games nations. The Cultural Program took place in the area bordered by the city, the MCG and Melbourne Park.

Festival Melbourne2006 was the biggest free cultural festival ever to be held in Australia. Its three key components were performance, visual arts, and the youth program. There were more than 1000 performances and exhibitions in Melbourne, with many events continuing on beyond the official dates of the festival. In regional Victoria, festivals were also held in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Moe.

There were a number of Commonwealth wide exhibitions and events, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Commonwealth Photographic Awards: Best of the Best exhibition.

Commonwealth Sports Ministers' Meeting

Australia also hosted thethird Commonwealth Sports Ministers' Meeting which discussed issues of mutual importance and strategically addressed the application of sports programs in assisting the health, social and economic development of the 53 countries and 18 territories of the Commonwealth. Ministers endorsed and agreed to a number of principles including:

promoting the benefits of sport and physical activity, by encouraging:

  • sport and health ministries to work together to implement the WHO strategy
  • physical activity and health education to be a part of school life
  • the use of sport to teach life skills and healthy behaviour.

building inclusive communities through sport by:

  • developing low cost high impact programmes that address diverse local needs.

The Commonwealth Games history

The Commonwealth Games has a long and distinguished history. The first Games were held in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1930. From 1930 to 1950 the Games were known as the British Empire Games, then the British Empire and Commonwealth Games until 1962. From 1966 to 1974 they took on the title British Commonwealth Games and from 1978 onwards have been known as the Commonwealth Games.

Since 1930 the Games have been held every four years except for 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.

The competing nations that participate in the Commonwealth Games are unique in that they are not brought together by geographic or climatic factors, such as the African Games or the Winter Olympics, but by history. Often referred to as the friendly games', the athletes and officials from member countries all share English as a common language, and come together every four years to enjoy the friendship, entertainment and sporting performances that make the Games such a distinctive sporting and cultural exchange.

Useful links

Australia at the Commonwealth Games

Forthcoming Games

Last updated: 31st October 2007
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