The year 2030 will mark the 100th anniversary of the
Commonwealth Games. The very first games, in 1930, were hosted in Hamilton.
They were known as the British Empire Games back then. More than 400 athletes
from 11 countries came together to compete in sporting events that featured
track and field, swimming, rowing, boxing, wrestling and lawn bowls. Women were
included in the competition, but their participation was limited to aquatics
That the Games happened at all is due almost entirely to the
organizing efforts of Melville Marks (Bobby) Robinson, a sports reporter for
the Hamilton Spectator and manager of the Canadian Olympics track and field
team. Robinson worked tirelessly to realize his vision of an international sport
event that would bring together athletes from across the British Empire in a
spirit of friendly competition.
This first edition of the Commonwealth Games included 11
nations, with Newfoundland (not yet a province) participating on its own. Most
of the athletes were housed in classrooms in the Prince of Wales school located
next door to Hamilton’s civic stadium. The female athletes were billeted
separately at the Royal Connaught Hotel. The accommodations were makeshift by
today’s standards, but this was the first instance of an international sporting
event where all the competitors were housed together in one place – what today
we would call an “Athletes Village”.
Hamiltonians embraced the Games with enthusiasm. A crowd of
17,000 people turned up for the opening ceremonies at Civic Stadium. Ticket
prices ranged from 35 cents for the boxing matches to $5 for a pass to all the
Today, the Games draw athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations
and territories. More than one million visitors attended the most recent event
in Australia. Preparations are now underway for the 2022 Games in Birmingham
The 1930 British Empire Games, so proudly hosted in
Hamilton, were the first major international multi-sport competition in Canada.
The success of those Games paved the way for future multi-sport events,
including the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver (1954), Edmonton (1978) and
Victoria (1994); the Winter Olympics in Calgary (1988) and Vancouver (2010);
and the Pan Am Games in Toronto (2015).