CGF President Dame Louise Martin's General Assembly 2020 Opening Address

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening – wherever you are in the Commonwealth, thank you for joining us today. 

I am truly sorry that we are not able to convene in person, to talk, to connect, to support each other, to come together as one big family. It isn’t the same, but I am sending you all a virtual hug from our studio here in Scotland. 

This also means no gracious host, like our wonderful 2019 hosts CGA Rwanda, and no inspiring cultural performance to welcome us and get us in the mood. 

Don’t worry, I have no plans to improvise.

Indeed, I think it is more appropriate to start today’s proceedings on a more sombre note, and begin instead by paying my respects to all those continuing to manage the impact of COVID 19; and to those who have sadly lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. 

As athletes, as colleagues, as parents, brothers, sisters, and as friends - the COVID-19 pandemic continues to influence every one of us. However, we look forward to 2021 with confidence and hope; and, I believe, we will look back on 2020 as a year that, in many ways, may have brought out the best in us. 

I have been inspired by so many people turning towards sport to help them through this crisis; and, by the determination and resilience displayed by Commonwealth athletes across the world. This is proof that sport throughout our Commonwealth has the power to positively connect us all and transform lives. 

I know that training in many Commonwealth countries has re-started; elite sport is slowly returning to our screens and our stadia – and millions of sports fans anticipate and appreciate the return of much-missed competition. 

Thank you to all the CGAs who are supporting these athletes and this process, in the most challenging of circumstances.

We have probably seen more of each other this year than we would in a normal cycle. Thanks to virtual technology, much has been discussed and achieved, as you will have read in our reports for today’s General Assembly.

I sincerely appreciate all your support and engagement through our co-creation and approval of Transformation 2022 and its refresh, we are all committed to a Movement that is more than 11 days of an event, as spectacular and significant as these Games are. 

Instead we commit to making the most of our platform to create peace, sustainability and prosperity, through sport, and across the Commonwealth, as sport is just the beginning!

Let’s take each of these impact areas in turn.

In terms of peace, I can think of no more significant year as 2020, a year that has changed the global discourse on equality and inclusion. Citizens and indeed athletes across the world have mobilised to stand up for equal rights, for freedom, fairness, equality and justice. 

This must continue to be prioritised by all of us. I passionately believe that our Commonwealth Games are one of the few events today that brings communities together in peace, friendship and non-discrimination.

This isn’t a hashtag or a trend. 
This is in our DNA. 

This year, we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Hamilton 1930 Games. In researching the anniversary, we heard the story of Ray Lewis - a promising 19-year-old runner who missed out on his home Games. 

Ray would go on to become the first Canadian-born black Commonwealth and Olympic medallist. However, he faced considerable racism at the time and wasn’t selected for the Hamilton Games by the coach of the Canadian athletics team. The founder of the Hamilton Games, Bobby Robinson, withdrew sponsorship of the athletics team in solidarity with Ray when the coach refused to back down. 

Lewis used the snub as motivation for a successful career which earned him the nickname “Rapid Ray.” “Every time I lined up at the blocks, I thought of the people who wanted me to fail”, he said. He went on to win bronze in the relay at the 1932 Olympics and silver in the relay at our Games in 1934. 

We should all be inspired by Bobby’s and Ray’s values and principles. 90 years on, I believe we must continue to use all our platforms to encourage athletes, coaches, officials, sponsors, administrators and fans to inspire, to educate, to stand for what they believe in. 

This year, we have faced the impact of a global pandemic and the pain, anger and sadness at treatment of members of the black community. Both have raised the familiar spectres of inequality, racism and injustice into our hearts and homes.

Therefore, in my Open letter earlier, I stated that we – as a Movement - must use our voices and continually seek to reduce inequalities and build peaceful communities. I believe we are walking the walk. 

We have launched our Commonwealth Sport Foundation – which aspires to address some of the world’s greatest challenges: Youth Empowerment, Equal Rights,  Historical Injustice, Small States and Island States; and Sustainable Cities & Communities 

We have also established a Human Rights Strategy (the first multi-sport event to do so) and worked hard on our gender equality ambitions, with exciting plans for 2022 to award more medals to women than men for the first time ever.

Plans are also in place for the largest-ever fully integrated para sport programme in our history at the next Games. 

There is still much more to do, we should be proud of our progress and commitment. Partnership working is essential to all of this, and I was pleased to announce yesterday that we have signed a new co-operation agreement with the IPC that will strengthen the Para sport programme of the Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Sport Impact Framework, outlined in Transformation 2022, works from the inside-out. 

Once a peaceful core is established, sustainability can best be delivered through an integrated approach to economic, social and environmental development, which in turn supports and generates prosperity.

We have seen much evidence of our sustainable approach, evidence of how our efforts are strengthening our Movement, providing legacy benefits to future generations and ensuring that we are in the best possible position to tackle future opportunities and challenges.

I was delighted to be invited to travel to Delhi last year to witness first-hand the amazing legacy of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. 

Although you may recall, the lead up to those Games experienced some well-publicised challenges, this does not undermine the incredible sporting achievements of Commonwealth athletes at our first ever Games in India.  Indeed, I passionately believe that the true legacy of Delhi 2010 is a hugely positive story that deserves to be told. 

While in Delhi, I was fortunate to travel to several of the 2010 venues, including the Indira Gandhi Stadium, where I saw athletes of all ages training under the guidance of some of the best coaches in India. 

It was truly inspiring to see these refurbished venues full and thriving, with children as young as six years-old training alongside their inspirational role models like six-time world champion boxer Mary Kom.

An initiative to make the Games venues, accessible to all people across the country, free of charge, is an incredible legacy 10 years on. 

Following this visit, we began working closely with India to re-engage in our common interests to grow and develop Commonwealth Sport. We all recognise the importance of having India, the most populous country in the Commonwealth, both engaged and active within the Movement. 

I was pleased to receive the proposal from Commonwealth Games India supported by their National Rifle Association, the Government of India, the International Shooting Sport Federation and World Archery, to host a Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championship in Chandigarh in January 2022.  

We are now developing a license agreement for this event.

What does this mean for the sustainable future of Commonwealth Sport? 

I believe that this event has the potential to set an exciting precedent for the future aligned to our priorities in Transformation 2022.  It is an innovative model that can promote and encourage the development and hosting of sport in other countries in the Commonwealth. 

This focus on innovation is also why the CGF agreed to an exploratory partnership with the Global Esports Federation in May this year. We have seen the dramatic rise of Esports in terms of popularity and participation, particularly the participation of young people, and especially during the pandemic. 

We now we have the right partner to help us undertake an analysis, looking at how esport in the Commonwealth can benefit our athletes and communities.

Later we will receive a presentation from Birmingham 2022’s leadership; and hear more about their recent decision to accommodate athletes and officials in three ‘campus’ villages, following a review of the COVID-19 impact on the construction programme.

This is another innovation. Indeed, it is in all our interests to ensure that this is a positive and successful solution. 

Our collective effort behind this new model in Birmingham will have a direct impact on the affordability and appeal of our Games as we liaise with potential host cities across the Commonwealth. Thank you to all CGAs for making this work.

In closing, I will turn to the third of our impact areas: 

Prosperity. Defined as a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition – not just financially – and the destiny we are trying to reach through and beyond the successful implementation of Transformation 2022.

We all know that the value of sport goes beyond health. It brings communities together, creates jobs and opportunities and generates an important contribution to GDP. 

This is why we believe that sport – and Commonwealth sport in particular – has an essential role to play not just during the pandemic but also for post COVID recovery. 

Therefore, we are working closely with partners and with governments to include sport, and Games hosting, as part of their pandemic recovery plans. 

Earlier this year we launched the Commonwealth Games Value Framework Report, an independent study, undertaken by PWC, evaluating the benefits and costs of hosting the Commonwealth Games. It was the largest-ever analysis of our event and it revealed that staging the Games had consistently provided an economic boost of over one billion pounds for the host cities as well as an array of positive social and environmental benefits. 

It reports that hosting the Games has provided the host city with extra investment from national, regional and other levels of government. For every 1 pound spent by the local host government, approximately three additional pounds are brought into the city and region by other government investment. 

It also generated employment, volunteering legacies, increased tourism and inward investment. With the CGF currently in dialogue with potential future host cities, and CGAs continuing to reach out to the CGF to express their interest in hosting future editions of the Games, the  Report can provide key information to help determine the value of hosting the event, and especially so in the current climate.

Please read this Report and let’s use it to strengthen our collective efforts to convince governments and the global sport community of the incredible value and impact of the Commonwealth Games. You are the best advocates for the Commonwealth Games in your own countries, and I would urge everyone to continue to make the case to your Governments around the benefits of hosting the Games. 

As we all know, our Games now have one additional team. Before we begin our meeting,  I am delighted to give the warmest of welcomes to the Maldives – who have re-joined our family, having missed Gold Coast 2018 due to their government’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 2016. 

The Resolution for the re-admission of the Maldives was overwhelmingly approved by our Membership, and on behalf of all CGAs, may I congratulate CGA Maldives as we welcome your country and your inspirational athletes back to the Commonwealth Games Federation.