British Empire and Commonwealth Games

BRITISH EMPIRE AND COMMONWEALTH GAMES were first held in BC in VANCOUVER in 1954. Sports administrator Stanley Smith was general chairman of the British Empire Games from 1949 to the event itself, overseeing the construction of the $1.5 million, 32,000-seat Empire Stadium, the swimming pool at UBC and the Empire Oval yellow CEDAR cycling track in China Creek Park, as well as the damming of the Vedder Canal (see VEDDER/CHILLIWACK R) for ROWING. Even after all these expenditures, the Games made a profit of $30,000 and international officials called it the most successful in history. The Vancouver Games is most famous for the MIRACLE MILE, one of the most memorable events in track and field history. BC accomplishments included Tommy Paonessa coaching Canada to its best BOXING performance, Doug HEPBURN's heavyweight weightlifting gold medal, Frank READ's UBC–VANCOUVER ROWING CLUB rowing 8 winning a gold, and Bruce Springbett and Harry Nelson participating in Canada's 440-yard relay gold.

The games returned to BC in 1994 when VICTORIA hosted the event, renamed the Commonwealth Games in 1978. The successful 1994 bid, engineered by newspaper publisher David Black (see BLACK PRESS LTD), track coach Ron Bowker, former LACROSSE star Whitey Severson, lawyer George Jones and others, made Victoria one of the smallest cities ever to host the games. Held 18–28 Aug, the Victoria games were most notable for the inclusion of S Africa, which had rejoined the Commonwealth earlier that year following the end of apartheid. Events took place at the Juan de Fuca Velodrome, the Saanich Commonwealth Place Pool, Memorial Arena and Centennial Stadium. Angela CHALMERS's gold performance in the 3,000 m highlighted accomplishments by British Columbians.
by Silas White