The Commonwealth Games Federation Sunday pledged to hold talks with India after its Olympic body threatened a boycott of the 2022 event in Birmingham over the exclusion of shooting.
India topped the table for shooting at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, taking home 16 medals including seven gold for a total tally of 66 medals — the third-best performing nation.
Shooting and archery were last month nominated by the Birmingham organising committee as events to be dropped from the 2022 Games programme, and for women’s T20 cricket, beach volleyball and para-table tennis to be included. The decision has to be ratified by Commonwealth Games Federation members.
The Indian Olympic Association wrote to the government noting that if shooting events were removed, the country’s medal haul would take a big hit.
“The impression that will go down is of bad performance because (the) overall number of total medals may come down along with the overall ranking based on medals won,” the association said in a letter to India’s Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.
“We want to express our protest by not taking part in 2022 CWG Games in UK.”
The association said it would like to hold talks with Rijiju.
In the letter, president Narinder Dhruv Batra added his organisation would not attend the Commonwealth Games Congress to be held in Rwanda in early September.
It was also withdrawing its two candidates for elections to be held there.
In response, the Commonwealth Games Federation said in a statement to AFP on Sunday that “we absolutely want India to participate wholeheartedly in Birmingham 2022”.
“We… look forward to meeting our colleagues in India over the coming months to discuss their concerns and future ambitions,” the statement said.
The Maldives has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, reversing a policy of isolation under autocratic leader Abdulla Yameen who suffered a shock defeat in September.
His successor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, wrote to the 53-member bloc on Friday seeking readmission two years after Yameen pulled the atoll nation out of it, the president’s office said Sunday.
Yameen withdrew the Maldives, an archipelago of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, from the Commonwealth after it mounted pressure on him to protect human rights and ensure the rule of law amid a ferocious crackdown on dissent.
Solih’s office said the new president’s administration believed in the values of the bloc, which consists mainly of former territories and colonies of the British empire.
“The Maldives’ interest in re-joining the Commonwealth stems from a deep conviction that the values and principles enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter are more vital than ever,” the president’s office said in a statement.
The 54-year-old took office last month after winning a landslide election victory despite Yameen waging a crackdown on his political rivals and jailing most of the opposition.
The former British protectorate faced persistent international pressure during Yameen’s iron-fisted tenure. The strongman accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in the nation’s affairs.
During Yameen’s reign, the United States had repeatedly warned democracy was under serious threat in the strategically-located archipelago sitting on key international shipping lanes.
Since Solih’s election, political prisoners have been freed and opposition figures in exile have returned home.
Solih has warned of a “dire” economic crisis in the Maldives and asked regional power India for help. Yameen had drifted closer to China and the Maldives saw its foreign debt balloon under his leadership.
Zimbabwe has applied to rejoin the Commonwealth, the group said Monday, marking a major step in the country’s international re-engagement after Robert Mugabe was ousted last year.
Mugabe angrily pulled Zimbabwe out of the bloc of former British colonies in 2003 after its membership was suspended over violent and graft-ridden elections the previous year.
The Commonwealth said it had received a letter dated May 15 from Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa applying to re-join.
Member countries “very much look forward to Zimbabwe’s return when the conditions are right,” said Secretary-General Patricia Scotland in a statement from London.
“Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion.”
Scotland confirmed that the Commonwealth would send observers to elections due in July or August, the first polls since Mugabe was ousted in November after a brief military takeover.
Mugabe was replaced by his former deputy Mnangagwa, a veteran ruling ZANU-PF party loyalist who was backed by senior military officers.
Mnangagwa has vowed to hold fair and free elections, and has pledged to revive the moribund economy by repairing international ties and attracting foreign investment.
Scotland called for “a credible, peaceful and inclusive (election) that restores citizens’ confidence, trust and hope in the development and democratic trajectory of their country.”
Britain said last month that it would strongly support Zimbabwe returning to the Commonwealth.
Zimbabwe had fractured relations with the West under Mugabe, who had held power since independence from Britain in 1980.
The government in Harare was not immediately available to comment.
If readmitted, Zimbabwe will become the fifth country to re-join the voluntary association of mostly former territories of the British empire, after Gambia, South Africa, Pakistan and Fiji.
The Gambia re-joined the Commonwealth in February this year after the impoverished west African nation was in 2013 suddenly pulled out of the bloc by ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
The other countries to have quit the organisation are Ireland, which left in 1949 and the Maldives which exited in 2016.
The Commonwealth brings together 53 countries representing 2.4 billion people, under a charter pledging commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law.
The last country to join was Rwanda, in 2009.
The organisation also holds an Olympics-style multi-sport event every four years, most recently in Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth at the height of violent land seizures when white farmers were evicted in favour of landless black people in a policy that wrecked the agriculture sector and triggered a national economic collapse.
African leaders have to collaborate to tackle corruption, ensure the recovery and return of stolen assets, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said on Tuesday.
Osinbajo made the call at the opening of a four-day conference of heads of anti-corruption agencies from across Africa in Abuja.
“It is only through collective action that we can stay ahead of the criminal elements who rob our countries and citizens of their present and their future,” he said.
“African countries must come together to keep the issue of asset recovery and return on the front burner of international discuss.”
The Vice President was at the conference with three former Presidents – General Yakubu Gowon, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa – as well as the Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland.
Heads of anti-corruption agencies of countries that are members of the Commonwealth, including the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were also in attendance at the conference, the eight in the series.
Of concern to all of them is the estimated $148 billion that has been taken away from Africa illegally.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General described the scale of the problem as a ravenous storm.
“The difference between the money we need to deliver the hopes and aspirations contained in our Commonwealth Charter of 2013 and the commitment we all made when we signed up to the UN SDGs of 2015 and the money we have is the sum equivalent of that which is siphoned off by the corrupt practices of the greedy, the uncaring and the pernicious few,” she said.
Queen Elizabeth II marked her 92nd birthday on Saturday with traditional gun salutes and a Commonwealth-themed charity concert featuring Tom Jones, Kylie and Shaggy.
Horse-drawn guns fired 41 times in Hyde Park and 62 times at the Tower of London, while at Windsor Castle, the band played “Happy Birthday” during the changing of the guard.
In the evening, the monarch and her family were due to attend a concert with performers from around the Commonwealth, the 53-nation grouping which held its summit in London this week.
Australia’s Kylie, Canadian pop chart-topper Shawn Mendes, South African all-male choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo and US-Jamaican reggae star Shaggy were to join British stars including Jones, Craig David and Sting.
The queen usually celebrates her birthday in private, saving the pomp for her official birthday in June.
The concert at the Royal Albert Hall will raise money for a new youth charity, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
The monarch’s grandson Prince Harry, who will marry US actress Meghan Markle at Windsor on May 19, is the trust’s new president and was due to give a speech at the concert.
The queen has been the symbolic head of the Commonwealth since her father King George VI’s death in 1952, but its leaders agreed on Friday that her son and heir Prince Charles should succeed her.
The summit was overshadowed by a row over Britain’s treatment of Caribbean immigrants, while Charles himself also came under scrutiny.
A non-white writer, Anita Sethi, claimed he joked about whether she was really from the British city of Manchester when they met at a Commonwealth meeting this week.
Sethi — whose mother was born in Guyana — said Charles asked her where she was from and when she replied, said: “Well, you don’t look like it!” and laughed.
She wrote in The Guardian that she felt humiliated and angry, adding that “some people, including the prince, urgently need a history lesson about immigration”.
Commonwealth leaders agreed Friday that Prince Charles should follow his mother Queen Elizabeth II as the next head of the group, the BBC and other media reported.
Queen Elizabeth on Thursday told leaders from the 53 member states that she wanted her eldest son to succeed her in the symbolic figurehead role.
Leaders, gathered at Windsor Castle for private talks, agreed that Charles, heir to the thrones of 16 Commonwealth nations, should follow the monarch in the non-hereditary position, the BBC, Sky News television and the domestic Press Association news agency reported.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s public call as she opened the group’s summit on Thursday for potentially the final time, a series of Commonwealth premiers voiced their support Thursday for Charles as a figure of stability and continuity.
Queen Elizabeth, who turns 92 on Saturday, spoke of her own “extraordinary journey” since pledging to serve the Commonwealth for life when aged 21.
“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day, the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work,” she said, referring to Charles.
Queen Elizabeth has been the Commonwealth’s symbolic figurehead since her father King George VI’s death in 1952.
Some Republican voices had been angling for change in future.
British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party, said on Sunday that the role could go to a rotating presidency.
But British Prime Minister Theresa May gave her backing to 69-year-old Charles.
“The government supports the Prince of Wales as the next head of the Commonwealth. He has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades,” her spokesman said.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said: “I very much agree with the wishes of Her Majesty that the Prince of Wales be the next head of the Commonwealth.”
Maltese PM Joseph Muscat added: “We are certain that when he will be called upon to do so, he will provide a solid and passionate leadership for our Commonwealth.”
Britain is hoping this week’s Commonwealth summit will boost trade with its historic partners as it prepares to quit the European single market after Brexit.
The UK is pouncing on the organisation’s analysis showing the advantages of trade between Commonwealth countries due to their common language and legal systems.
But some are warning that Britain’s trade with Commonwealth nations lags so far behind that with its European Union neighbours that a straight replacement is impossible.
The 53 member states are gathering for their biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), being hosted this year in London.
The summit proper takes place on Thursday and Friday but kicked off Monday with three days of forums and events that lay the groundwork.
Born out of the former British empire, the voluntary organisation, covering a third of the world’s population, focuses on development and democracy, but is placing greater attention on boosting trade.
Intra-Commonwealth trade is expected to increase by at least 17 percent to around $700 billion by 2020, according to the 2018 Commonwealth Trade Review.
There are “opportunities for the UK in the post-Brexit period to… negotiate new bilateral trade agreements with interested Commonwealth members,” the report said.
Britain is set to leave the EU in March 2019. It is seeking new trade deals outside the European single market and is looking to its former global network to make up for any slack.
London is going for the hard sell during CHOGM, hosting a reception aimed at showcasing British exports, from food and drink to the English Premier League football trophy.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Our Commonwealth family already accounts for one fifth of global trade, and we must continue to work together to build further upon this solid foundation by building on our existing trade links and establishing new ones.”
The Commonwealth’s business chief Jonathan Marland told The Times newspaper that it would be a “dereliction of duty” if Britain failed to boost exports to member states and persuade them to commit formally to free trade.
However, The Economist magazine said the Commonwealth “won’t save Britain from Brexit”, calling the idea that Commonwealth business could replace EU trade “an amiable delusion”.
In terms of goods and services trade in 2016, Britain does more business with 15 countries — nine of them in the EU — before its biggest Commonwealth trade partners Canada and India.
Overall, the EU accounts for nearly half of Britain’s trade; the Commonwealth just a tenth.
Youth role for Prince Harry
Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of the Commonwealth, is hosting a dinner for the leaders on Thursday at Buckingham Palace in London. On Friday they gather in private at Windsor Castle, west of the city.
She has newly appointed her grandson Prince Harry, 33, as her Commonwealth youth ambassador.
He opened Monday’s sessions by telling youth leaders he hoped get them working together to ensure “maximum impact” in finding solutions to global problems.
To cheers, Harry said the US actress Meghan Markle, whom he is due to wed on May 19, was “hugely excited” to be joining him in his new task.
Given its highly diverse membership, if agreements can be struck within the Commonwealth, they can likely achieve wider support.
At the last Commonwealth summit in Malta in November 2015, leaders struck a deal on climate change that helped pave the way for the Paris agreement days afterward.
This time, the group is hoping to agree on an ocean governance charter, a connectivity agenda for trade and investment, and a declaration on tackling cybercrime.
The summit comes immediately after the 2018 quadrennial Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Jamaican sprinting legend Usain Bolt played the DJ at Sunday’s closing ceremony after an 11-day event where the hosts comfortably topped the medals table ahead of England, India, and Canada.
A total of eight athletes from conflict-hit Cameroon are now missing from the Commonwealth Games in Australia, team officials said Wednesday.
Three weightlifters and two boxers were initially reported to Australian police after not being seen since Tuesday, triggering suspicion they had fled with no intention of returning to Cameroon.
Cameroon press attache Simon Molombe told AFP the number of missing athletes had risen to eight — one third of the country’s 24-strong team.
“It came as a complete surprise,” he said. “We have no idea where they are. The matter is in the hands of the police.
“There were no worries this kind of thing might happen,” he insisted. “We continue to cooperate with the police.”
Australian Border Force were searching for weightlifters Olivier Matam Matam, Arcangeline Fouodji and Petit David Minkoumba and boxers Ndzie Tchoyi and Simplice Fotsala after they apparently fled.
Three more boxers have since vanished, sparking an Australian Border Force manhunt.
Cameroon team manager Victor Agbor Nso told local media he had been in contact with the police.
Commonwealth Games organisers called for competitors to respect the law, mindful of the fact that more than 100 athletes overstayed their visas at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“We would appreciate them sticking within the law, enjoying themselves, but sticking within the law,” organising committee boss Peter Beattie told reporters.
“That includes Cameroon and any other athletes. And if they are thinking of doing anything other, I would encourage them not to.”
Before the Games opened on April 4, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned that athletes would be closely monitored to ensure they did not overstay their visas and that they returned home after competition ended.
“It’s obviously disappointing that some athletes who have come to compete, didn’t compete as scheduled,” said Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg.
“It’s important to remember that these athletes are guests here in Australia at this time, they are still within their visas, they have a right to travel freely,” he added.
“But this is obviously an issue that Team Cameroon is monitoring very, very closely.
“Until it becomes a real issue in terms of visas and so forth we would obviously have to take that very seriously.”
Cameroon, in central Africa, is suffering from civil unrest after a military crackdown on English-speaking separatists.