OPINION: In these days when the pink ink on the world map has faded and become hard to discern, and New Zealand's gaze has long moved to the Asia Pacific region in preference to Mother England, it is easy to wonder: what is the point of the Commonwealth?
Once its members were all part of the British Empire, and paid equal homage to Queen Victoria, cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey tea. Now its nations are as separated in culture, in language, and religion as they are in space. As time passes, it seems increasingly to be a relic of a bygone age.
Yesterday, we witnessed the opening of its last great show: the Commonwealth Games. We enjoyed the fireworks, thrilled to the skirl of the pipes, and cheered as Valerie Adams waved the New Zealand flag, which still has that red, white and blue stripy bit in the corner.
We look forward to two weeks of showing the world that our athletes are better than those of other members. But the curious thing about competition in sports is the way it makes friends of rivals, and generates understanding, respect and camaraderie between those who seek to defeat one another.
In a world full of pride, rage, self-interest, hatred, greed and strife, the nations of the Commonwealth come together for one reason above all: friendship. We get together with them and we wrestle and jump and run with them because they are our mates.
This is what makes the Commonwealth rather special.
The historical origins of that friendship may fade from memory with the passage of time. The distance in space between us mean we may not see each other very often. But a wise man who knew a lot about time and space, once said: "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding."
Whoever wins on the sports fields, we will cheer, and applaud the efforts of those friends. We will honour their achievements, whether the medal winners are from Malawi, Jamaica, Bangladesh or New Zealand.
And together we will have made the world a friendlier place, in which nations know each other a little better and care about each other a little more.
That's an achievement worth a bucketful of medals.
- The Southland Times
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