It might seem a bit churlish to criticise the achievements of plucky amateur competitors, but the sportswriters got a bit carried away with some of those Friendly Games stories: “Norfolk Island – a tiny island of 1,700 people – celebrates first Commonwealth Games medal in 24 years with lawn bowls bronze”. This article makes much of the fact that Canada, with its 36 million avid bowls fans, was dispatched by the gallant Norfolkians in the battle for the bronze medal. We also had the Cook Islands (population 17,380) cleaning up another bowls medal, and Nauru (population 11,359) winning silver in the weightlifting.
The point seems to be that these are huge giant killing acts, but fails to take into account the strange geopolitics of the Commonwealth Games. Norfolk Island isn’t a country it’s part of Australia. The Cook Islands sounds like a session on the psychiatrist’s couch “a self-governing island in free association with New Zealand”. It seems only fair that every British town and village should be given the same right to compete in the Commonwealth Games under its own flag, there are some damn good lawn bowls clubs out there.
And we already have world beaters in many other sports. The town of West Auckland (population 8,509) was the first winner of the World Cup as well as being the hometown of notorious arsenic poisoner Mary Ann Cotton. Glenbuck in Ayrshire (population approximately zero) produced Bill Shankly and 38 professional footballers. Poulton-le-Fylde (population 17,430) has given us not only Paul Stewart of Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool fame, but also Scottish international Tony Green (and Keith Harris and Orville, but Orville was banned for bringing the game into disrepute after painting himself green and dressing in a giant nappy). Even Yardley Gobion (population 1,348) can claim that in 1979 it featured on the Blue Peter television series when presenter Simon Groom visited a breeder of St Bernards in the village, although admittedly St Bernards breeding is not yet a Commonwealth Games event.
So come on Prince Charles, in your new role as Head of the Commonwealth sort it out and give equal rights to Upton Snodsbury, Scratchy Bottom and Wyre Piddle. WallJAM is a truly global competition, allowing players to compete not just against their friends, but against the best in the world, inside or outside the Commonwealth.