If sport is a metaphor for life, and if the Commonwealth Games are a metaphor for the Commonwealth, then let just one sporting event submit itself for treatment: the marathon. Life, the Games, and the Commonwealth: all, in their own way, equate to the gruelling 26-mile race in which one person may win the prize, but competing — and sharing with fellow competitors — is for all.
When the proud athletes of 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth entered the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at the Games opening ceremony on Sunday evening with their heads and flags held high, India’s own Commonwealth Games marathon will be beginning its last, 10-day-long lap. From the moment the Games were awarded to this country, its sights have been set on this huge moment. There have been long stretches of an empty, uphill road on the way, and an anxious burst of final pace. But it is grit, fuelled by momentum and inspired by the exhilaration and magic of the crowd that have carried these Games over the line. India has literally and metaphorically moved the earth to make this happen, and it is now being cheered home.
The 54 members of the Commonwealth, too, run the race of life. Sometimes we run together; sometimes we run ahead or fall behind. Sometimes, we run into the metaphorical wall of pain. Some run through them; some are stopped in their tracks before they dust themselves off and run again.
We run as individuals, we run as groups. But ultimately we run as the entire field — anyone who competes, wins. There is loneliness but there is also camaraderie for the long-distance runner. And all encourage each other. These are Friendly Games that can unite a third of the world’s population. Countries large and small, rich and poor — all run this race.
“If you want to win something,” said the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek, “run 100 metres. And if you want to experience something, run a marathon.”
Kamalesh Sharma is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth
The views expressed by the author are personal