Why the Commonwealth Games are Good for Swimming

The debate about the residual value of the Commonwealth Games as the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth, ages has grown louder than ever in 2018. Some want so-called “minnow” countries to be culled from competition, citing lopsided results (3 Australian teams won by a combined 155 points on Friday across men’s and women’s basketball and netball). Others cite the murky and often violent history of the British Colonial rule. Those in favor of the event cite its ability to unite the members of the Commonwealth in a more positive air, promoting camaraderie among citizens, building better international bonds, and allowing the countries’ athletes to compete on more even footing.

The debate over the politics of the matter is of less concern to me than the debate over whether it is good for swimming. Several of our commenters have expressed frustration with the event, asking ‘what does it count for?” and rolling their eyes over Australians swimming fast, presuming that it will preclude them from speed later this summer at the Pan Pac Championships.

But I’m here to say, that the Commonwealth Games are good for swimming. For starters, in many parts of the world that are largely without a strong bridge to carry elite training between the age group level and the world-class level, the Commonwealth Games can help fill that gap.

For example, Scotland is sending 29 athletes to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Many of those athletes will never break through and qualify for the broader British roster for the European Championships, World Championships or Olympic Games. The same goes for England’s roster of 39, or Wales’ roster off 15. The subdivision of the teams, and the ensuing national financial support for those athletes, provides an incentive to continue training as they get older. We don’t necessarily know which of those next-tier of athletes will or won’t qualify for bigger stages, but the Commonwealth Games can motivate them to continue fighting for those national roster spots. The rise in Scottish swimming is good evidence of that in action – Scotland’s success at the Commonwealth Games has helped the country grow into a bigger portion of the overall British team.

Beyond that, whether they complain or not, whether you believe it or not, fans do care about the Commonwealth Games. Medals are a point of pride, and for athletes, that fandom gives them new opportunities to market themselves. There was a debate in the comments section recently about whether athletes receive endorsement money for Commonwealth Games medals – and I can tell you, unequivocally, that there are swimmers who earn endorsement money for Commonwealth Games success. That is a 100% fact. There’s of course no good data on how prevalent it is, or what the scope of that money is, but there is good authority that there are swimmers who receive endorsement money for Commonwealth Games medals, and it’s enough to make a difference in their ability to compete professionally.

Fans like resumes with medals – and the broader populace is less-discerning about the nature of those medals than some of the more in-tune swim geeks might be. Giving money back to the athletes is good for swimming.

And finally, the Commonwealth Games create a significant investment in swimming facilities from outside of the sport. The Tollcross Swimming Center underwent a nearly-$20 million (£13.8 million) upgrade ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Australia’s Optus Aquatic Centre received about $42 million in upgrades before hosting this year’s events – and that’s spent on an outdoor pool, where $42 million goes a lot further than an indoor pool. There’s a laundry list of ‘crown jewel’ facilities around the Commonwealth that were either built for, or renovated for, the Commonwealth Games, and they were built with money that would’ve been hard to find otherwise.

This money could all surely be put to other good in the communities, to some charities or some social programs that would help far more people (though the Commonwealth Games do result in a lot of employment, even if much if it is temporary). We’re not ignoring the broader social impacts of the Commonwealth Games, both positive and negative, in a discussion of whether the event should continue to exist. However, viewed in the narrow lens of “what is good for swimming,” there’s a whole lot for this event to hang its hat on.

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Excellent article! I concur wholeheartedly – the commonwealth games are good for swimming, there’s no ifs or buts about it.


totally agree

Spotted Zebra

For further evidence to support this point (if indeed one needs it), see #2 and #1: https://swimswam.com/swimmings-toptentweets-the-future-of-swim-fandom/ 🙂


It is a “Games” experience with all the pomp and ceremony. Competing alongside and cohabiting with other sports. National pride is at stake and home and international media are present. This, World University Games and Pan-Am Games offer a glimpse of the real world distractions and environment of the Olympics. Pan Pacs doesn’t nor does the World Championships. Nobody cares about those meets but other swimmers. World Championships no doubt provides superior competition but these types of meets help prepare young swimmers for the Olympics in ways World Championships


Ummm just because they are good for swimming doesn’t mean winning a metal there matters that much. I doubt anyone thought it was bad for swimming. I wonder consider just about as important as a National Championship not a massive international competition that it’s presented as. It’s just how I see it. Or I might just be salty cause all the men are swimming slow and Caeleb wasn’t invited.


u wasted a lot of energy …to gain what ? nothing except down votes . Time to travel outside of Usa mate , it would do u a great service to start understanding others .


I was just expressing my opinion. And I’ve been out of the country plenty of times. Hawaii is my favorite place to visit.

samuel huntington

Hawaii is in the USA….


Yeah…. that’s the joke


your opinion is based on what u think – not real experience of how other nations of swimming perceive what’s valuable for them – so again , Hawaï has nothing to do with CWG , so what your point ?


You need to listen more carefully to the speeches at the Olympic opening ceremonies and the words of Pierre de Coubertin; it’s not the winning that counts but the taking part. The Commonwealth Games isn’t claiming to be anything it is not. No Aussies are going up to Americans and waving their medals in their faces. Ultimately, I’m afraid it wasn’t designed for the satisfaction of none-commonwealth countries or for them to turn their noses up at how low the standards are compared to other competitions. It must be great to swim as fast as Caeleb Dressel, but if everyone swam like him, he wouldn’t be famous. It must be great to be able to look at things from an… Read more »


Yep it wouldn’t be worth his time.

Caeleb Dressel Will Win 9 Gold Medals in Tokyo

How many Commenwealth games medals have you won? Or world medals?


Can’t win any cause I’m not part of the commonwealth.


Oh no going to have to change my username after this?


Yes, the Commonwealth Games are good for swimming for the “minnow nations” (I couldn’t care less about Great Britain or Australia). Athletes from countries like Fiji, Tonga, Pakistan, or pretty much anywhere in Africa but South Africa may not get to an Olympics or Worlds, so the Commonwealth Games are very much a big deal for them.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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