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Archive for August 7, 2022

Aug. 7, 2022 — Might the Commonwealth Games have hit on something for the future?

Today is the penultimate day of the Commonwealth Games, the multisport athletic competition for athletes representing nations in the British empire. Starting in 1930 as The Empire Games, these have gradually grown to be one of the major non-Olympic competitions, and a place to demonstrate sports which were introduced to other nations under British hegemony, such as lawn bowling, T-20 cricket, and netball.

But since 2002, the Commonwealth Games program has also included Para sports — not a separate Para Commonwealth Games, but competitions run at the same time as unclassified athletes.

This is something not done in the Olympics, or within many athletic competitions. Indeed, when it comes to one of the more important athletic pursuits — track and field — the world championships were held last month in Oregon, but the Para track and field championships will be held two years from now in Japan.

You might ask whether holding a unified Olympics with unclassified sport and Para sport might have a chance to occur. As a show of acceptance of the Paralympic movement, I think this would be an awesome step. But I also recognize that the presentation of the Olympic and Paralympic programs side-by-side over the course of 16 days may be a near-impossible task.

First off, you have the previous limits as to the amount of total athletes who can appear at any one Olympic games, which is roughly 11,000. Adding the Paralympic athlete roster would bump the number of athletes to some 15,000. That’s a sizable group to house and feed in the Olympic Village.

Second, there’s the time factor. If you wanted to be able to get in all of the 100-meter races for the various classifications, you would have to hold 18 different events, including heats and semifinals leading to the medal races.

Finally, not all Para competitions use the same competition surfaces as their Olympic counterparts. Sure, a volleyball court can double as a goal-ball field, and a basketball court can hold a wheelchair rugby tournament, but that isn’t always the case.

But there’s one thing that a merger of the Olympics and Paralympics could do: expand the Games from 16 days to, say, a month. That’s what the World Cup’s footprint is on the schedule, and I don’t see any reason to think that a monthlong Olympics couldn’t work.