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Commonwealth Games

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OPINION: I'm suspicious of the motivation behind some high-profile withdrawals from the forthcoming Delhi Commonwealth Games.

While security and health are two issues to the forefront of every athlete's mind, it seems that most of those announcing they won't be going are doing so because there is no prizemoney on offer.

That's not to say every withdrawal is a money issue, but I've no doubt it's a major factor.

Each day we read of big-name cyclists or athletes who won't be going. What is unspoken is that when they compete around the world, they are paid many thousands of dollars, often just for showing up. Now they are being asked to go somewhere where conditions are clearly going to be unenjoyable, and worse, to do so for no money.

The money issue has been a ticklish problem even for a few New Zealand sports, which have got around it by tying their athletes to contracts that include representing their country at the Commonwealth Games.

It's revealing that very few archers, lawn bowlers, shooters and wrestlers - the sort of athletes not used to being paid - have made themselves unavailable.

If there was $150,000 on offer for each gold medal, many of these high-profile withdrawals wouldn't have taken place.

Will the no-shows ruin the games? No. There was a mass boycott before the 1986 Edinburgh games because of the African countries' objections to Margaret Thatcher's attitude towards South Africa.

The games went ahead and medals were won. When results from 1986 are recalled, there's no mention of who wasn't there. People have been questioning the relevance of the Commonwealth Games, and it's a fair question. However, I hope the Games continue.

It's true that the sun set on the British empire (the Games were initially the British Empire Games) decades ago, and the Commonwealth is a rather bizarre collection of countries scattered around the globe. But when you're at a Games, you're struck by the spirit among athletes, who are bonded by a common language.

For New Zealand, the games are significant. They have launched the careers of greats such as Sarah Ulmer, Gary Anderson, Yvette Williams, Murray Halberg, Rebecca Perrott, John Walker, Valerie Adams among others.

The Games have provided New Zealanders the chance to bask in the reflected glory of the victories of Ces Matthews, Harold Nelson, Dick Tayler, Jaynie Parkhouse, Greg Yelavich, Stephen Petterson, Graeme Miller, Nick Willis, Val Young and Anne Audain.

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These days the Games are an important stepping stone for budding New Zealand athletes, a chance to dip their toes in international



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