The 20th annual Commonwealth Games began in Glasgow this week. The sporting competition features athletes from 71 nations and territories in the Commonwealth of Nations. This year, the games began with an opening ceremony unlike any other. The committees planning the ceremony teamed up with UNICEF, the games’ charitable partner, to use the ceremony as a fundraiser for children facing the challenges of poverty.
The Commonwealth Games, formerly known as the British Empire Games in 1930, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954 and the British Commonwealth Games in 1970, occur every four years. Competitors come from countries in Africa, Asia, South America and the United Kingdom that are included in the Commonwealth of Nations. The games celebrate a common appreciation for sport world-wide in the same way that events such as the Olympics or the World Cup do.
Many of the countries sending athletes to the games are considered developing countries that combat poverty back home. UNICEF is working to provide assistance to people in those countries.
No effort has been more successful or public as the fundraiser created as a component of this year’s opening ceremonies.
The ceremony provided attendees and television audiences with the ability to donate to UNICEF’s Put Children First Appeal. With 40,000 people in the live audience and over one billion people watching on television, the initiative created a widespread call for supporting children experiencing poverty.
The donations received will go toward saving children’s lives in Scotland and the rest of the countries in the Commonwealth. A $50 donation provides 30 children with life-saving medication, while $75 will give UNICEF the money to donate five safe water kits to families in Africa. Finally, a donation of $150 is enough to fund school supplies for 100 children
Filmmaker Lord Puttnam, one of the event’s organizers, believes that the charitable component of the Glasgow 2014 ceremonies will become a precedent for other major sporting events in the future. Puttnam told reports, “I cannot imagine the next World Cup not finding a means of allowing people to participate in giving to something that FIFA are promoting.”
Puttnam’s comment is extremely topical given the controversy over the most recent World Cup’s effect on global poverty. After expecting more to be done to support Brazil’s economy or the developing world in general through the World Cup, sport enthusiasts and philanthropists alike may be pleased to hear about the Commonwealth Games’ efforts.
The Put Children First Appeal is still accepting donations online, and the 20th Commonwealth Games will continue to support UNICEF throughout this year’s competition. As Puttnam says, hopefully future sporting events will use their power of global unification to combat global poverty.
– Emily Walthouse