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Games an opportunity for smaller nations

other Updated: Oct 04, 2010 14:29 IST
Commonwealth Games

There might be questions over the relevance of Commonwealth Games in the age of Olympics and continental games but the quadrennial extravaganza is the biggest sporting event for many smaller nations.

The Commonwealth Games held every four years features athletes from 71 nations which were formerly part of the British Empire. Many of these nations are small dependencies, territories and not even full fledged republics.

"It a great opportunity for us to compete against the larger nations at the Commonwealth Games. In comparison to Olympics we qualify for a lot of events at the games as the Olympic qualifiers are fiercely competitive," said Sean Oppenheimer, Chef-de Mission of Nauru - an island in South Pacific with an area of just 21 square kilometres.

Nauru, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Niue Island, Norfolk Island, Cook Islands, Jersey, Malta are among many of the small nations participating in the 19th Commonwealth games which were inaugurated on Sunday.

These smaller nations due to lack of resources, both human as well as economical find it difficult to produce Olympic quality athletes and thus Commonwealth Games are a rare opportunity for them to showcase their sporting prowess at a bigger platform and get much required international experience.

"Commonwealth Games give us an opportunity to compete against the likes of Australia and India which otherwise wouldn't be possible for us," added Oppenheimer who has landed in Delhi with a contingent of only 10 athletes.

Then, there is another reason that prevents some territories from sending their contingents to the Olympics. Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Norfolk Island, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Niue Island among others rather participate in the Olympics as constituents of larger nations like England, New Zealand etc.

"It is very difficult for us to make it to many international events because we have to compete with the English players for selection," Dough Clark, an athlete from Falkland Islands said.

Athletes from Falkland Islands which is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom participates in the Olympics under its flag.

"Ours is a small country and we have put a decent percentage of our population at the Games," Falkland Chef-de Mission, Mike Summers had said during the official team welcome ceremony at the Games Village.

The Commonwealth games though dubbed as "the friendly games" see some local rivalry between the athletes.

"We would surely want to get better of the English players," Adrian Bruce, an archer from Isle of Man- a self-governing British-crown dependency.

Bruce feels his rivalry with the English archers results from the many local competitions and trails for the limited vacancies in international competitions.

He also doesn't forget to mention the name of Mark Cavendish- a Tour de France Winner who originally is from the Isle of Man but is famous only as a British cyclist.

"It is by far the biggest platform we can ever perform on. It is a chance for the smaller nations to show what they have got," said Martyn Irvine, a Northern Ireland cyclist.

"This is a very special event for smaller nations who can't compete on the world stage as individual nations," said William Tosh, Manager of Northern Ireland.

With the bigger sporting powers grabbing most of the medals and limelight at the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games provide an opportunity to these minnow nations to compete at the world stage.