The Commonwealth Games on stamps

The 19th Commonwealth Games opens tomorrow in New Delhi, with more than 70 nations fielding a team. The Commonwealth Games takes place every four years and is the third largest multi-sport event in the world.

Teams from member states of the Commonwealth of Nations (countries who were formerly part of the British Empire) are eligible to compete. In the Commonwealth Games the United Kingdom does not compete as one nation, but splits into England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

Host countries of the Commonwealth Games generally celebrate the Games philatelically, as do some of the competing nations. According to Thaindian News India Post has issued five stamps to mark the New Delhi Games, and there is even a Post Office in the Games village.

England, Wales and Scotland have all previously hosted the Commonwealth Games, with Glasgow due to host in 2014. Since 2000 a Youth Commonwealth Games has also been staged. Edinburgh was the inaugural host and The Isle of Man will host next year. Most of these Games have (or probably will be) commemorated on stamps, here’s a brief look at preview British Commonwealth Games issues:

1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Cardiff

1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Cardiff commemorative stamps

The Postmaster General initially rejected the request for a stamp issue to commemorate the 1958 Games on the grounds that it would break the GPO policy of strictly limiting commemorative issues. Following further discussion and external pressure this policy was changed; special stamp issues would now appear every two years or so, “selecting for the purpose current events of outstanding national or international importance”.

The artists invited to submit designs for the 1958 Commonwealth Games issue were asked to include themes symbolic of the Games as well as the Welsh Dragon, or some other symbol which would indicate the association of the Games with Wales. The selected designs by Reynolds Stone, W.H. Brown and Pat Keely all feature the dragon, with Brown’s also including the then symbol of the Commonwealth, the Crown surrounded by a chain.

1970 Ninth British Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh

1970 Ninth British Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh commemorative stamps

The stamps commemorating the Ninth Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh were designed by Andrew Restall and showed progressive action shots of athletes competing in running, swimming and cycling events. This issue divided opinion; one critic compared the designs to “a load of ectoplasm emerging from a sewer”, whilst others praised Restall for his contemporary approach.

1986 Thirteenth Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh and World Hockey Cup for Men, London

13th Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh & World Hockey Cup for Men, London stamps (1986)

Artist Nick Cudworth, known for his work in oil and pastel, designed five stamps to commemorate the 13th Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the World Hockey Cup for Men in London. Cudworth took a more traditional design approach than Andrew Restall, but still managed to capture the action and excitement of elite sport.

2002 17th Commonwealth Games Manchester

2002 17th Commonwealth Games Manchester

The designer of the Manchester Commonwealth Games stamps, Madeline Bennett, wanted to capture the speed and excitement of competition as sportsmen and women raced to the finish line – so she stretched the stamps to make the point. Bennett had previously worked on the Barcelona Olympics, winning a Designers’ and Art Directors’ Association award for the most outstanding graphics poster campaign. After her work on the Commonwealth Games stamps, Bennett was commissioned to design the stamp issues celebrating the 21st Birthday of Prince William, and the 2006 World Cup.

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