James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Commonwealth's odd sports

Sally Johnston of New Zealand celebrates after winning the Women's 50m Rifle Prone Shooting at Barry Buddon Shooting Centre during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo / Getty Images
Sally Johnston of New Zealand celebrates after winning the Women's 50m Rifle Prone Shooting at Barry Buddon Shooting Centre during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo / Getty Images

The best thing about the Commonwealth Games is that they are exactly like the Olympics except we win heaps more medals. The worst thing about the Commonwealth Games is that they are exactly like the Olympics in that Australia inevitably wins heaps more medals than we do. As the XX Commonwealth Games come to a close, it is time to look back at the sporting spectacle that was Glasgow 2014.

Judo is one of those sports I will never understand. I'm sure it takes a lot of skill, athleticism and determination to be a Commonwealth-level judoka but to the outside world it will always look like two people in pyjamas play-fighting until they end up on the ground grabbing each other and one of them begs the other to stop. Meanwhile, a dude in a suit stands watching them grapple and saying random Japanese words, which apparently have some point-scoring basis.

The good things about judo at Glasgow 2014 were that: (a) judo seems like a good skill to have on a night out in Glasgow; and (b) we were relatively good at it and won some medals. Unfortunately, we tended to win silver medals at judo, which meant that on television the highlights consisted of us losing, but honourably.

The Commonwealth Games 2014 has also taught me the truth about hockey, which is that the point of the game is not to score goals but to hit the ball on to the foot of your opponent until someone blows a whistle. To me hockey is one of those sports, a bit like judo, full of rules I don't really understand. I feel any sport where you arm people with clubs should have fewer rules, not more; to make it a more gladiatorial spectacle.

We won a gold medal in the women's 50-metre Rifle Prone event. "Prone" is a strange word, especially when applied to shooting, where it tends to imply a rather tragic outcome to the event. Shooting is probably the least televisual of any Commonwealth Games sport, so I wonder if at future games they will try and jazz things up by trading out the word "prone" for the much more exciting "sniper". From there it will be only a matter of time until they add the 50-kmh Drive-by to the shooting programme.

With apologies to Mark Todd et al, one of the best things about the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014 is that there are no equestrian events. It has always bugged me at the Olympics that there are all these events where the horse seems to do all the hard work but it is the human who gets the medal. This does not seem fair to the horses, especially seeing as they have a much shorter lifespan than their riders. Also, not having equestrian events means no dressage, which is the least interesting sport in the entire world of sport.

The Commonwealth Games does, however, have rhythmic gymnastics, which is like synchronised swimming on land. This is to say it is an often physically impressive sport, with the tossing of the balls and the hoops and the clubs and the rolling round on the floor, but it seems to have no real point or connection to the real world, outside of auditioning for the Cirque du Soleil.

Glasgow has looked good through the whole event, even when it was raining like it usually does in Glasgow. I spent some time there many years ago and absolutely loved the place, and I am sorry that they haven't added to the Games some of the traditional Glasgow sports I witnessed while I was there. My favourite one was a sort of running race through the streets, where supporters of one football team chased supporters of another through the traffic. It is a form of triathlon involving drinking, fleeing and fighting.

With Glasgow 2014 almost done and dusted, it is time to start contemplating (with some trepidation) the next Commonwealth Games: the Gold Coast 2018. Will the organisers add sports in keeping with the GC's cultural ethos, like Tanning, Wet T-shirt Modelling and Gambling? Will GC 18 be the first ever Commonwealth Games where several triathletes fail to finish the swim leg due to being stung to death by box jellyfish and/or eaten by saltwater crocodiles? How many tonnes of sequins and rhinestones will be used in the opening ceremony and will it go down in history as the tackiest opening to any sporting event ever?

So many questions we'll have to wait four years to answer. About the only thing we do know for sure about the Commonwealth Games of the Gold Coast 2018 is that Australia will win more medals than us, because that is just the way of the world.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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