In 1938, Sydney became the first Australian city to host the Commonwealth Games, known at the time as the British Empire Games, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of settlers on the continent
In 1938, Sydney became the first Australian city to host the Commonwealth Games, known at the time as the British Empire Games, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of settlers on the continent.
Now, 60 years on, the Gold Coast is once again hosting the famous sporting event – but how has the organisation of the Commonwealth event changed?
The east coast city was officially granted host status in November 1935 by the British Empire Games Federation, and a committee was established to organise the Games and showcase Australia to the rest of the Commonwealth.
Sydney Cricket Ground was selected to be the main stadium, though its grass track worried the Canadian and British teams, and £40,000 was spent on a new municipal pool, which had its usual salt water replaced with chlorinated fresh water.
A sum of £10,000 was required to cover transportation costs of the sports teams to Australia, a considerable sum at the time that took much deliberation in Government before being agreed to.
The Opening Ceremony was a formal and military affair, with England leading the parade of nations.
Top medal contender Canada had 69 male and 10 female participants; in contrast Bermuda and India had a single competitor each.
In all, only 464 competitors took part in the 1938 Games, compared to the 6,000 expected at the Gold Coast this year.
Compared to the Games Village and years of preparation by the tourism industry for the 2018 event, in 1938 the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales offered free accommodation to athletes and officials on their showground for four weeks.
Furthermore, unlike for Gold Coast 2018, there was no Queen’s Baton Relay preceding the main event in 1938.
There was also little in the way of recognition and reconciliation for Australia’s indigenous culture, with the plight of Aboriginals largely ignored and repressed throughout the Games.
This year, `cultural training’ has been undertaken by a number of national teams in order to understand more about Australia’s traditional people.
There were concerns at the 1938 Games that women’s events would not figure prominently, with reports that female athletes were having difficulty obtaining long leave and would make up a relatively small proportion of the contingent.
Only 88 women took part that year, and had separate accommodation to the male athletes staying in the Village.
Women were also only allowed in athletics and aquatic events, though the star performer of the Games was in fact a woman, Australia’s five gold medal-winning Decima Norman.
In comparison, Gold Coast 2018 organisers are claiming gender equality will be achieved this year, with equal medals available to men and women.
In 1938, King George VI, patron of the Games, sent a message to the attending athletes that read: “I am particularly glad to know they have attracted to Sydney, the representatives of so many parts of the Empire.”
His daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, now stands as Head of the Commonwealth, a multinational and multilateral network of independent countries.
The 1938 Games fuelled greater ambitions for Australia: although WWII disrupted international sporting events in the years 1939-1945, within a decade Australia had been selected as the Southern Hemisphere’s first Olympic host for 1956.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games Australia placed second on the medals table, a success they hope to replicate at their home Games in April.
Australia has organised a highly successful Commonwealth Games in the past, but Gold Coast 2018 is set to be a more modern, more equal sporting competition than its 1938 predecessor.
Read More: Team England visited Dreamworld Corroboree on the Gold Coast, Australia and took part in indigenous cultural training as part of their preparation for this year's Commonwealth Games, which will take place April 4-15, 2018