Acting global, thinking local: ‘Liquid imperialism’ and the multiple meanings of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

Acting global, thinking local: ‘Liquid imperialism’ and the multiple meanings of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

Pusblished by: The International Journal of the History of Sport

Date: 23 August 2006

Challenging earlier scholarship that has suggested that the Commonwealth Games contributed unproblematically to imperial and commonwealth unity, this article explores the multiple, and conflicting, contemporary local meanings of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games held in Vancouver, Canada. In addition to emphasising the sporting and economic dimensions of the Games, the article introduces the concept of ‘liquid imperialism’ to highlight the complexity of Canada’s imperial connection in the post-war era. By examining not only official pronouncements, but also oppositional voices and the manner in which the Games were appropriated by a number of competing interests, the article argues for a more complex understanding of the Games’ cultural influence while examining the nature of Canada’s imperial connection during the middle of the 20th century.


Academic historical analysis of the British Empire/Commonwealth Games is limited. In fact, little has changed since Brian Stoddart rightly observed back in 1986 that the Games ‘lack a thoroughly analytical and interpretive account of their history’. [1] There are, to be sure, several informative accounts of the origins of the Games that focus on both the 1911 Festival of Empire as well as the first British Empire Games held in Hamilton in 1930. [2] In addition, recent work among international relations scholars has added to our knowledge concerning the diplomatic context of Commonwealth Games since the late 1970s. [3] However, with the exception of Stoddart’s illuminating but very brief survey of post-colonial politics and the Games, virtually no attention has been paid to the Games held in the middle part of the 20th century—precisely the period when the British Empire was dismantled and the Commonwealth was undergoing considerable growing pains. This article is part of a larger project that aims to examine the Games during this transition period in an effort to expand our understanding of imperial sentiment in Canada and other post- colonial settings after the 1920s. [4] Canadian historians have had a great deal to say about Canada’s connection to the British Empire during the late 19th century and into the 1920s. We know very little, however, about this connection during the rest of the 20th century. [5] In order to shed light on English Canada’s imperial connection in the 1950s, this study embraces Stoddart’s suggestion that we undertake serious, analytical studies of the Games. In doing so, however, it calls into question the straightforward relationship that Stoddart and others have suggested exists between the Games and Commonwealth unity.

According to Stoddart, the Games have served an important role in ensuring that ‘the imperial ethos has survived much longer into the post-colonial age than might have been anticipated’. ‘As the formal, political ties with the imperial power have declined,’ he suggests, ‘the informal cultural ones have been strengthened to maintain a strong power relationship and a particular vision of social order’. To this end, he argues, the removal of the word ‘Empire’ from the Games title in 1966 and the subsequent removal of the term ‘British’ by 1974 ‘did not signify concessions of political equality so much as the fully fledged reliance upon the cultural power of the Games’. [6] Similarly, in positing his explanation for the seemingly smooth mid-20th century transition from Empire to Commonwealth, Harold Perkin has gone so far as to suggest that sport played a dual role. ‘In the maintenance of that friendship and goodwill throughout a difficult and by no means trouble-free transition,’ he argues, ‘sport has played an important psychological part’. ‘It helped,’ he claims, ‘to foster unity and self-confidence in the old colonies and dominions in their Oedipal, love– hate relation with the mother country, and to smooth the transition from rivalry to independence’. Moreover, he argues that ‘losing at organised sports and games prepared the British psychologically, just as winning prepared the colonists, for decolonisation and for mutual respect and independence on both sides’. [7] The evidence presented below, however, suggests that the historical significance of the Empire/Commonwealth Games was not so straightforward. Indeed, if the 1954 Games are any indication, such accounts have overestimated the degree to which organisers, participants and even spectators in attendance understood the Games to be primarily about the imperial connection and Commonwealth unity. Instead, the Vancouver Games of 1954 suggest that the rationale behind the Games varied among supporters, and that a vague sense of imperial solidarity, something I shall term ‘liquid imperialism’, continued to inform English–Canadian political culture.

Sport and Empire

‘To know a no ball from a googly and a point of order from a supplementary question is genuinely to have something in common,’ John Strachey, a minister in Clement Atlee’s post-war Labour government, once optimistically explained. [8] But as historians have since confirmed, shared knowledge of the rules of cricket, or of parliamentary procedure for that matter, did not automatically ensure smooth relations between coloniser and colonised, or in fact between the British and white settlers. Indeed, if the British Empire/Commonwealth Games remain largely overlooked by historians, the same certainly cannot be said for the relationship between sport and Empire. Urged on by the pioneering work of J. A. Mangan, historians have come to recognise the centrality of a sporting ethic to the development of British imperialism, particularly in the 19th century. [9] Whether embracing models of cultural imperialism or Gramscian-informed cultural hegemony, historical examinations of sporting relations within the Empire tend to emphasise tensions between sport as a tool for imperial domination and its appropriation as a method of colonial resistance.

Allen Guttmann, for example, fully acknowledges that modern sports ‘abetted . . . imperial expansion’. [10] But he is also quick to assert that resistance and appropriation are an important part of the story. ‘Culturally dominated groups have often had sports imposed upon them’, he explains. But ‘they have also—perhaps just as often—forced their unwelcome way into sports from which the dominant group desired to exclude them’. ‘In sports, more often probably than in any other domain’, he argues:

. . . the initially dominated have turned the tables on their erstwhile dominators. Once successful emulation has shattered the ludic monopoly, the literal or metaphorical colonials have a splendid opportunity to enhance their self-esteem, for what can be more delightful than ‘beating them at their own game’? [11]

Such examples of the Empire striking back include, but are certainly not limited to, Mohun Bagan’s victory over an East Yorkshire regiment at a 1911 Calcutta soccer tournament, and celebrated cricket victories over England by Australia in 1878, the West Indies in 1950, and India in 1971. [12]

At times scholars have offered nuanced and complex descriptions of the connection between sport and Empire. Mangan, for example, reminds us that ludic diffusion could be ‘intentional and unintentional, direct and indirect, accidental and incidental, formal and informal’. [13] More recently, Kausik Bandyopadhyay has revisited the 1911 Mohun Bagan victory to highlight its multiple and conflicting political, social, and commercial legacies. [14] On other occasions, however, historical analysis of sport and the British Empire has tended to rely upon the binary opposition of domination and resistance. Hence, Perkin argues that beginning in the 1880s ‘sport played a part in holding the Empire together and also, paradoxically, in emancipating the subject nations from tutelage’. Sport thus served not only as a tool of domination but also of emancipation. In aid of the former, Perkin argues, organised sport ‘fostered the elite virtues of self-confidence, self-reliance, leadership, team spirit, and loyalty to comrades’ that served as ‘ideal qualities for governing . . . a multi-racial Empire in which a tiny white minority maintained its ascendancy over a multitude of ‘the lesser breeds without the law’. Conversely, he acknowledges, the sporting field helped to nurture anti-colonial feelings. ‘There was a certain zest in beating the arrogant British at their own game,’ he explains, and thus ‘beating the mother country became for the expatriates and white settlers a sort of rite of passage, a test of manhood, almost a proof of fitness for home rule’. Hence the public celebrations that resulted from Australian and West Indies cricket victories over England. [15] Similarly, Canadians, who could hardly hope for a cricket victory against England, expressed their national pride in 1867 when Saint John, New Brunswick’s ‘Paris Crew’ defeated the international competition at the Paris Exposition. [16] Thus, sport frequently served as an opportunity for a wide variety of colonial subjects to express an emerging sense of nationalist pride. [17]

Brian Stoddart has written passionately and convincingly about the importance of breaking down the all too comfortable binary opposition between sports and politics. In urging us to ‘locate sport as a central institution rather than a peripheral one in the evolution of the Commonwealth,’ he has argued for academics to recognise the limitations of any approach that fails to recognise the ‘intrinsic political value’ of sport and that ‘fails to see sport in the shape of any other bargaining resource at the international level’. Hence his frustration with simplistic laments against ‘bringing politics into sport’. Sport, he maintains, is at some level always political. [18] This is an important observation. And yet as enlightening as Stoddart’s analysis is on this point, it, too, falls into a comfortable binary opposition—albeit of a different sort. His analysis of the political culture surrounding the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, like many other examinations of sport and imperial relations, remains narrowly focused on the issues of domination and resistance between colonial power and colonial subject. [19]

As the following examination of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games suggests, however, public debate surrounding the Games was not an example of ‘two-way traffic’, a term Guttmann uses to characterise the diffusion of modern sport between more and less powerful groups. [20] Instead it resembled an intersection with traffic heading off in a variety of directions and meeting up with more than a few dead ends. To accurately gauge the strength of the imperial connection in the post-1930 period, it is important that we recognise the crowded nature of the public sphere in which these events were held, and in which understandings of the Games’ importance were voiced. Some voices lauded the 1954 Games as a key component of imperial solidarity; others denounced the event, and the Empire, as anachronistic and morally distasteful. But just as prominent were voices that embraced neither official nor oppositional rhetoric. These voices sought to appropriate the Games for a variety of social, political and cultural endeavours— some marginally linked with imperial and commonwealth sentiment, others not at all. Recent scholarship on South Asia examines the extent to which sport continued to act as a cultural bond even as Britain relinquished its Empire. [21] This article begins the work of asking similar questions of about a very different part of the Empire: Canada. In doing so it joins with this recent literature in emphasising the multiple meanings of sporting events.

Other non sports-related public displays of imperial unity offer important indications of just how complex and multifaceted events such as the Empire Games could be. Organisers of the 1927 Pageant celebrating the 60th anniversary of Canadian confederation, for example, found themselves unable to convince communities across the country to adhere to the suggested celebratory narrative that would focus on ‘60 years of progress’. Instead, the party line was met with indifference among French-Canadian nationalists who refused to gloss over past ethnic and linguistic tensions, while organisers in Toronto chose to emphasise a less than inclusive imperial theme. Organisers in Manitoba, on the other hand, chose to direct emphasis toward a celebration of local and regional development. [22] Similarly, previous celebrations of imperial unity in Britain also point to the often partial and conflicting nature of the messages such public events produced. As Denis Judd reminds us, Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee ‘was staged for a variety of reasons, some idealistic, some cynical, some confused, even contradictory’. On one level organisers hoped it would make ‘the vast majority of British citizens feel proud of their country and Empire’. But it also served as an opportunity for staunch imperialists such as Rudyard Kipling to warn that the Empire’s future was threatened, and for anti-imperialists such as Labour politician Keir Hardie to publicly suggest that the simpleminded celebrants suffered from false consciousness. [23] More revealing, perhaps, was the 1924 British Empire Wembley Exhibition. According to King George V’s opening remarks, the official rationale of the Exhibition was to strengthen the bonds of Empire. And yet both contemporary and recent accounts of the Exhibition suggest that the public was far more interested in the accompanying amusement rides and entertainment than in imbibing deeply the rhetoric of imperial unity. [24] The complex nature of such spectacles highlights the multiple, partial and conflicting meanings that such events generate. Scholars assessing the political and cultural impact of sporting events would do well to consider John Bodnar’s distinction between ‘official’ and ‘vernacular’ cultures. Public memory, which Bodnar defines as ‘a body of beliefs and ideas about the past that help a public or society understand both its past, present, and by implication, its future’ emerges at the intersection of these two cultures. [25] As the rest of this article demonstrates, both cultures informed the public celebration that was the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Official and Oppositional Voices

‘A gay and flag-bedecked Vancouver woke up today to find itself the centre of the sports world’. So the Vancouver Sun declared on 30 July 1954, anticipating the opening ceremonies of the Fifth British Empire and Commonwealth Games scheduled for that evening. The symbolism of the ceremonies, the newspaper advised readers, was expected to illustrate the continuing glory of the British Empire and Commonwealth unity. The Games flag ‘with its crest of golden chain around the Queen’s crown’ would soon be raised inside the stadium, while the flags of all of the competing nations would be raised on the downtown Court House lawn ‘in a brilliant display of the Empire’s strength’. [26]

Just hours before the opening ceremonies were to begin, columnist Harold Weir offered the Vancouver Sun’s readers a confident declaration of the importance of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. For Weir the Games were far more than a simple sporting event, they celebrated the glory of Empire and the continuing peaceful flourishing of the Commonwealth. ‘Tonight,’ he announced, ‘the Commonwealth and Empire congregate in Vancouver at the level of wholesome human relationships’. The Games, he explained, would provide for a ‘further welding together of many nations under the splendour of human fellowship’. Eager to draw a parallel between the Empire Games and Queen’s Elizabeth’s recent coronation, Weir suggested, as many academics have since, that the bond of sport was stronger than even the connective aura surrounding the crown. Vancouver’s Games, he maintained, would open tonight ‘with the same trumpets and the flying flags of our Commonwealth brothers of so many races and colors, and the display of something that is even more fundamental in this strange union of peoples than the Crown’. For what would be on display that evening ‘with fitting pomp and pageantry, is the basic brotherhood of man’. And whereas ‘the Coronation set forth the brotherhood of free nations under a common sovereignty’, the Games would ‘set forth the brotherhood of their peoples under a set of common ideals and principles of living’.

Key among these principles was sportsmanship. Sportsmanship, Weir claimed, was an important and praiseworthy pursuit.

For sportsmanship, as we know it, is something more than highly developed skill with javelin or discus. It’s something more than strength and brawn and even that specialised intelligence which is necessary to direct them. To employ a somewhat jaded phrase, sportsmanship is a way of life. [27]

It was also, apparently, a racial trait: ‘And it’s eminently fitting that these Games should be called the British Games,’ he explained, ‘because the conception of sportsmanship as a way of life is peculiarly a British conception and one of those many priceless gifts the Empire has given to the world’. Even in 1954, both the Victorian-era belief in racial essentialism and the mystique of British fair play continued to inform Weir’s outlook—albeit in a more gender-inclusive form. The 550 male and 102 female competitors would all try to win their events, he explained. But all of them were already aware that most of them would lose. That, Weir exclaimed, was a central part of what would be celebrated during the Games for ‘greater than victory or glory is the joy of clean and wholesome competition’. ‘If the British Empire had contributed nothing to the world but this doctrine,’ he explained:

. . . it would still have retained a benefactor’s place in history. That doctrine is this, that a valiant loser is equal to a valiant winner. That the game’s the thing. That the dust of honest trying is just as bright an accolade as the laurel wreath of triumph.

This ‘doctrine of sportsmanship,’ he continued, ‘is a vital thing because it’s the inner secret of the British Empire, the ability to give as well as take, the will to serve as well as the will to rule’. [28] In arguing this point, Weir echoed 19th century ideas regarding the connection between sporting culture and imperialism.

Such lessons, Weir suggested, were apparent not just on the athletic track, but in the world of global politics as well. To support his argument Weir offered a Whiggish version of Imperial history bereft of any sense that Britain had been motivated to obtain and now disband its Empire through self-interest. Instead, ‘many of the competitors including Canadians who march in the opening ceremonies tonight,’ he declared:

…will remember that their countries have come to sovereignty through the sportsmanship of the British people; that, whatever their creed or color, they are brothers today of a common mother who has grown, perhaps, just a trifle rusty in the joints as all mothers do soon or late. [29]

What the Buckingham Palace press office might have made of this rather unflattering metaphor is unclear. What is certain is that Weir understood the Games to be serving an important political purpose by making a direct contribution to imperial and Commonwealth unity.

In case his audience still had failed to note the historical importance of this event, Weir trumpeted the uniqueness of such a gathering. ‘The British Empire and Commonwealth is the strongest phenomenon to ever spring from the loins of history’. ‘It has been pronounced dead by political physicians so many times that it has narrowly escaped premature burial,’ he stated, referring both to the ‘white’ dominions’ previous moves towards increased autonomy as well as to the recent partition of India. ‘Look closely at the Indian and Pakistani athletes tonight,’ Weir continued. ‘For they symbolise a miracle. Here are two units of the Commonwealth who asked for sovereignty and got it. But of their own volition they desired that the British Queen remain their head of state’. ‘Two republics headed by a queen,’ he trumpeted. The Games, for Weir, served as a demonstration to the world of the continuing strength and vitality of both Britain and the Commonwealth. [30]

Weir was not alone in dwelling upon the importance of the British Empire and the potential of the Games to contribute to imperial and Commonwealth unity. Speaking enthusiastically to this point was Ivan Miller, the Sports Editor of the Hamilton Spectator, whose words of encouragement and support for Vancouver’s bid to host the Games were featured prominently in a January 1950 issue of the Vancouver Daily Province. Miller drew upon Hamilton’s successful hosting of the first Empire Games in 1930 in order to give Vancouverites a sense of what they could expect from the experience. Central to his suggestions was the rhetoric of imperial unity. ‘For the people of the community in which the games are staged,’ he explained:

. . . it is like old home week, for in entertaining athletes from all the countries of the Empire, the folks in this country, most of them with Old Country ties, will find the visitors just like a breath of the homeland.

Moreover, Miller enthused, ‘the sight of the neatly garbed athletes’ from the competing countries, ‘standing gallantly under a canopy of Commonwealth banners, provides a soul-stirring spectacle that in itself is unsurpassed’. [31] As historian Katharine Moore confirms, organisers of the 1930 British Empire Games heartily embraced such imperial sentiment. [32]

Not surprisingly, the imperial connection was still at the forefront of official pronouncements by Empire Games officials in 1954. The planned receptions for the arriving athletes, for example, also spoke to the unity theme—and in doing so highlighted the centrality of military power and a shared imperial culture. According to the Games reception and entertainment committee, athletes arriving by ship ‘will be greeted by aircraft formations, fleets of small craft, fireworks, the fireboat ships’ whistles, Indian war canoes, bands, an RCMP honor guard and flower girls’. In this plan imperial conquest over aboriginal peoples was neatly subsumed amidst the colour, smoke and raw power of military display. Presumably the Indian war canoes were just one more example of the Empire’s military might and the diversity of the Commonwealth. [33]

For Vancouver Mayor Charles Thompson, ‘no greater honor could come to Vancouver than to see our youth competing against brother athletes of the Empire here on the home grounds’. [34] The rhetoric of ‘‘family’’ unity had long been a central component of Empire Games culture. [35] It was fitting, then, that for the officials the anticipated participation of one of the heads this ‘family’, the Duke of Edinburgh, was viewed as the ‘crowning achievement’ for the Games. In the symbol of Prince Philip the organisers obtained not simply a member of the royal family, but a keen sportsman—indeed, a man who seemed to embody the virtues of Victorian sporting manliness. [36] As testimony to this image, the Vancouver Daily Provinceboasted an article on the Duke accompanied by three photographs of His Royal Highness immersed in a variety of sporting actions with the captions: ‘The Yachtsman’, ‘A Cup For Polo’ and ‘Champion Cricketer’. [37] When scheduling difficulties dictated that the Duke’s attendance at the Games would be restricted to just the final four days of the competition, local Games officials were initially crestfallen. In search of a suitable replacement to preside over the opening ceremonies, they would turn eventually to Viscount Alexander of Tunis. The former Governor General of Canada proved a worthy replacement in the eyes of the press. As a war hero his presence could conjure up images of imperial military power. In addition, the Vancouver Sun was eager to note, Lord Alexander had been ‘a track star in student days’. Royalty, military service, and an amateur sporting ideal were all central to organisers’ and supporters’ conceptions of imperial unity—and thus of what the Games would be celebrating. [38]

Such attitudes were not restricted to Games organisers and press reports. In a letter to the editor of the Daily Province, Vancouver citizen Tom Howarth urged the provincial government to provide a substantial grant to the Games on the grounds that in doing so the government would ‘thereby play a part in sponsoring an event which forges and strengthens the links which bind our great British Commonwealth’. [39] Similarly, when Earl Beatty, the oldest son of the late Admiral Lord David Beatty, a Great War hero, arrived in Vancouver in his capacity as commandant of English team he too understood the Games as an event that helped to strengthen the bonds of unity that held the Commonwealth nations together and thus served as a ‘very strong force for good’. [40]

In one sense, then, the Fifth British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver were all about the glory of imperial unity. In providing his succinct summary of the meaning of the British Empire Games to the 25,000 spectators at Empire Stadium during the opening ceremonies, Lord Alexander could undoubt- edly take comfort in the fact that many people in the crowd enthusiastically endorsed this commonsense understanding of the purpose and importance of the athletic competition that was about to commence. Alexander’s remarks were direct and confident. ‘It is occasions such as this,’ he announced, ‘when members of our Commonwealth meet together in friendly rivalry, that the bonds which united us become further strengthened through a greater understanding of each other’. And in responding to the Queen’s message on behalf of Games participants, he returned to this theme: ‘No effort will be spared to fulfil the ideal of these Games—the further cementing of the bond of Empire through the medium of sport’. [41] Other dignitaries supported this official understanding of the Games’ overtly political role. In his address at the Closing Ceremonies, for example, the Duke of Edinburgh repeatedly referred to the Commonwealth as a ‘family of nations’ and explained to the assembled athletes and spectators that ‘Your friendly rivalry here has drawn every one of Her Majesty’s realms and territories closer together’. [42] Even in hindsight, the official understanding of the Games remained consistent. In November 1954, three months after the Games had concluded, Sir Arthur Porritt, Chairman of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation, optimistically trumpeted the Games’ success in producing ‘greater and greater friendship between the British peoples through the medium of Sport’. [43] Local Games Chairman Stanley Smith similarly pronounced the Games successful in evoking ‘the true and ever evident spirit of comradeship which did so much to cement even more solidly those bonds of unity which exist between all members of the big Commonwealth family’. [44] Here, then, was a reassuring and ‘official’ image of a united Empire.

And yet as optimistic and determined as these pronouncements were in support of the Games’ connection to the Empire and Commonwealth, they did not go unchallenged. At least one public figure found himself in hot water for taking up a decidedly oppositional stance. Jack Scott, whose ‘Our Town’ column was a regular feature in the Vancouver Sun, claimed to have run afoul of the Games executive for expressing his opposition to the entire endeavour. Scott asserted that the Games executive had denounced him ‘as ‘‘an enemy of sports and sportsmanship’’ because I happen to think the ruddy games are a bore, a scandalous waste of public funds and a boost for racial bigotry’. Indeed, he let loose a spirited and sarcastic denunciation of all that was wrong with imperial sentiment, going so far as to call the continuing existence of the Empire into question:

British Empire Games? What British Empire? The British Empire of the old school tie and the persecution of minorities? Right now we ought to go firmly on the record, as a city, condemning the participation of at least a third of that ‘Empire’—Kenya, British Guiana and the Union of South Africa—in the name of sportsmanship. The clean-cut athletes who will be feted here on their arrival from South Africa, for example, as ‘representative’ of that country are no such thing.In South Africa and those other corners where the old school tie is still a symbol of power, a white-skinned man does not run the foot race or jump the same bar or plunge into the same tank with the black-skinned man. Nevah, no nevah. One teddibly [sic] unkind chappie who feels as I do about this has gone so far as to suggest we make it a real Empire Games and have a mile run between representatives of the Kenya Police and the Mau Mau. Or, better still, a bicycle race between a team of union-busting sugar barons from the feudal remnant of Empire that is British Guiana and a team of native field workers. [45]

Scott was not alone in challenging the complacent rhetoric of unity and progress that surrounded the Games. In an article ostensibly outlining the Duke of Edinburgh’s royal tour itinerary, for example, Vancouver Sun reporter Stanley Burke noted sharply that some aspects of the tour had the potential to challenge the happy narrative of Commonwealth unity and shared prosperity. However, Burke pointedly suggested that these problematic elements would likely be conveniently diverted from the royal guest’s sight, and thus world opinion. ‘At Churchill, [Manitoba],’ he explained:

. . . the royal visitor will also see a sight of which local people are less proud. It is the shacks and tents in which the Chipewyan Indians live in squalor. A semi-nomadic people, they sustain a hard and unhealthy life by trapping and hunting. They have apparently degenerated sadly since the days when [Samuel] Hearne described them as a fine, self-reliant people.

‘For the Duke’s visit,’ Burke predicted:

. . . the shacks and tents nearest the road will probably be cleaned up as much as possible and the visitor will be whisked by. People at Churchill aren’t very proud of the ‘Chips’. It seldom occurs to them that they and their forefathers may have something to do with [the Aboriginal population’s] present condition.

Burke’s pointed observation thus included elements of an anti-colonial critique—a rather jarring but brief and, in all likelihood, ineffectual rejoinder amidst the continuous waves of imperial solidarity and self-congratulation. Still, the royal tour that coincided with the Games provided an opportunity, at least, for issues such as the treatment of Aboriginal people, to be raised. [46]

Thus far public pronouncements regarding the Games fit rather nicely the binary pattern established by several scholars of sport and Empire. There was clearly an ‘official’ position that understood the Games to be making a tangible and important contribution to imperial and Commonwealth unity; and there was a less-powerful, but nonetheless passionate and oppositional position that seized upon the Games as an opportunity to launch anti-imperialist assaults on this all too tidy story of brotherhood and sportsmanship. However, most public pronouncements regarding the rationale and purpose of the Games were not subject to this binary opposition. Instead, public discourse surrounding the Games was characterised by what we might term a multiplicity of vernacular understandings—many of which focused on the Games’ perceived sporting and economic dividends. Exploring this phenomenon allows us to obtain a more nuanced, complex, and accurate sense of the imperial connection in the Empire’s oldest dominion during the 1950s.

Vernacular Voices: Sporting and Economic Dividends

Early on Games organisers, as well as leading government figures and sports officials, all saw in the Empire Games an opportunity to stimulate sporting activity in British Columbia. Games General Manager Blair M. Clerk, for example, foresaw a direct and favourable impact on youth participation in sport at the local level. ‘Two wars interrupted Vancouver’s progress in developing boy and girl athletes,’ the Sun explained in paraphrasing Clerk’s views, ‘but the Games will greatly increase local interest in encouraging them’. [47] Similarly enthusiastic was British Columbia Premier Byron Johnson, whom the Daily Province reminded readers was a ‘former athlete of note’. As befitted the head of a coalition government, Johnson understood the potential impact in provincial rather than civic terms and enthusiastically predicted in January 1950 that bringing the Games to Vancouver ‘would give a great stimulus to sport, particularly in British Columbia’. [48] Perhaps most optimistic was Ann Clark, vice-president of the women’s section of Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, who suggested that news that Vancouver would be a serious contender to host the Games was ‘the best news I have heard in 21 years with the Women’s Federation’. [49] Such expressions of optimism regarding the Games’ potential to stimulate sport at the local, provincial and even national level were one clear indication that in the minds of organisers and supporters the Games were viewed as a boon to sporting pursuits, and not simply a key element in preserving the post- imperial connection.

More revealing, and in fact more common, were pronouncements regarding the role the Games might play in helping Vancouver attract future sporting events. Jack Harrison, president of the British Columbia Track and Field Association, eagerly anticipated the impact that newly constructed sports facilities would have on Vancouver’s ability to attract top-flight sporting events once the 1954 Games were over. ‘Looking into the future,’ he explained, ‘the city would have a great chance for yet greater shows once we get the facilities’. [50] For Harrison the key component would be the addition of a new track and field stadium that would be ‘more than just a flash-in-the-pan for the Empire Games’. Such a facility, he enthusiastically suggested, would mean that ‘Vancouver can join the ranks of other metropolitan cities of North America’. It would, he optimistically concluded, ‘put us in the major sports league’. [51] The Games, in Harrison’s understanding, were less an opportunity for stimulating local athletics or cementing the post-imperial bond than a chance for the city to gain recognition as a metropolis capable of hosting bigger and better sporting spectacles.

Such enthusiasm was common. Games General Manager Blair Clerk echoed Harrison’s arguments by suggesting that ‘Vancouver’s international fame as a centre of amateur athletics will be given a great boost’ by the Games. [52] Similarly, a conversation with Vancouver’s Sam M. Rosen convinced the Los Angeles Times’s Paul Zimmerman that the Games would not only put Vancouver in a position to bid for the 1960 Olympics, but would also ensure that the city would ‘be in better shape than any West Coast city for major league ice hockey’. [53] Moreover, a week before the Games began organisers and supporters could take heart from New Zealand team official Herbie Towers’ survey of the situation. Towers predicted that Vancouver would remain a major international sports centre after the Games. He predicted that not only would Canada no longer be forced to continually send its athletes away to compete, but that the city would also attract leading athletes from other countries. In noting that the Games required significant ‘capital expenditure,’ Towers reassured Vancouverites that ‘the city will benefit enormously for years to come’. [54]

The anticipated returns of a successful Games were not restricted to future sporting events. Many observers and supporters understood the Games to be a potential publicity bonanza. Indeed in its meetings to explore the possibility of hosting the Games, Mayor Charles Thompson’s two-man exploratory committee bluntly reported that the Games would put Vancouver ‘on the map’. [55] Reg Rose, executive secretary of Vancouver Board of Trade concurred. ‘We will get world-wide publicity,’ he triumphantly announced. [56] Games Chairman Stanley V. Smith clearly saw no conflict between the event’s potential stimulus to sport and its broader impact on the city’s reputation.

The Games will give an impetus to all lines of sport. They will be good economically, too. . . . We have to put on a good show. If it’s bad, it will react definitely and unfavorably on sport, business and our economic future. [57]

Indeed, Smith understood the Games to be ‘an opportunity for very good or very bad publicity’. [58] Provincial opposition leader Harold Winch agreed. When the provincial government approved a $500,000 grant in aid of the Games, the 19-year veteran of provincial politics noted that it was the first time in his career in which all of the political parties had joined together to make such a request of the government. ‘It will be a terrific black eye for B.C. if we fail,’ he warned, before concluding optimistically that the $500,000 spent on the Games ‘would come back a million fold in publicity’. [59] Two years earlier a seemingly jealous Victoria Daily Times enviously reported that in ‘striving to gain international sports recognition, Vancouver may have chewed off more than it can handle’. [60]

Games organisers’ concern for the publicity value of the Games meant that they embraced opportunities to maximise the event’s exposure. They were, it might be said, not above playing the publicity game—an effort that often meant finding ways to integrate the Games into North America’s expanding consumer culture. Hence, plans for a sod-turning ceremony to raise publicity for the soon-to-be constructed stadium were to be ‘super deluxe’ according to the Games publicity committee as its members aimed to maximise the Games’ exposure on radio, newsreels, and even television. The plan, the Daily Province reported, included:

. . . a miniature parade—including the usual pretty girls in swim suits—athletes in track suits carrying brand new shovels, majorettes, the Firemen’s Band, a large model of the proposed stadium, and as many roaring, snorting bulldozers and graders as the contractors can muster for the occasion. [61]

Games organisers appeared to have recognised the competitive realities of the North American entertainment marketplace. Sex and machines, it seems, as much as the high diction of imperialism, were a key component of Games publicity.

Significantly, a good deal of discussion regarding publicity sounded like old- fashioned boosterism and focused on local economic development. ‘Civic and sports officials and business leaders are happy over the big publicity plum,’ the Sun reported in May 1950, much the way one might expect the newspaper to report on the city having announced a functional addition to its infrastructure, or a new tax break that might increase investment. On the task now facing Vancouverites, and in particular the colossal job of constructing the necessary facilities, Mayor Thompson announced that each and every Vancouverite ‘must become a booster, financially and spiritually’. [62] Blair Clerk urged Vancouverites to contemplate the many future economic advantages that might accrue from a successfully staged Games. ‘Who knows,’ he asked rhetorically, ‘what that might mean 20 years from now when these boys are the businessmen and statesmen of their countries’. [63]

Not surprisingly, many of the eager pronouncements regarding the city’s future development were tinged with a sense of western regional resentment and expectation. In 1950, when Vancouver still faced competition from the eastern cities of Toronto and Hamilton to host the event, Daily Province sports editor and Games exploratory committee member Erwin Swangard noted, hopefully, that ‘The west is the logical choice for 1954’. [64] With news that Vancouver had trumped its eastern rivals, Marg Ryan, president of the Women’s Track and Field Federation of British Columbia, could hardly contain her glee:

This is just what we need to interest Canada in Vancouver. I was a bit surprised, though. The West has always been a forgotten stepchild of the East, athletically. Now we have an opportunity to show at our best. [65]

For Bob Osborne, president of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada and the other member of the mayor’s exploratory committee, the opportunity was not simply one related to athletic endeavour. It was, instead, an important opportunity for Vancouver to aspire to metropolitan status.

Handled properly, and with the energy and drive that characterise (so we insist) the virile west, not the coming of the Games but the establishment of a modern athletic centre . . . could be the trick that turned Vancouver from its present position of un- splendid isolation, into showmanship affinity not only with other Canadian cities of prominence, but with the U.S. metropolitan areas of the continent.

Anticipating the gruelling campaign to prepare the city to host the event successfully, Osborne was buoyed by an optimistic sense of the payoff that would follow: ‘It may hurt some but the pain of the games, if any, will be nothing compared to the benefits we shall receive afterward’. [66]

For its part, the Daily Province expressed its regional angst by focusing on, of all things, the politics of postage stamps. Dismayed at the lack of interest the national postal service had expressed in producing a commemorative Games stamp, the newspaper printed a stinging editorial bristling at the notion that, thanks to a campaign by George Hees, a federal member of parliament for Toronto, Toronto’s newly constructed subway might soon be commemorated on a stamp while Vancouver’s international sporting festival seemed doomed to overlooked by the Ottawa bureaucrats. [67] Less regionally focused was the organisers’ conception of the planned souvenir booklet. The booklet was expected to document the history of the Games, including ‘its accomplishments for Commonwealth solidarity’, along with stories regarding past champions, photos, and a list of the scheduled events. Tellingly, the proposed book was also expected to be ‘jam-packed with interesting information about Canada and its industries’, [68] a reminder that economic and imperial rationales need not be mutually exclusive.

Industrial production was by no means the only aspect of British Columbia’s economic development that local business people sought to highlight. By the 1950s tourism was a key component of the British Columbia economy and in their never ending attempt to maximise tourist visits and expenditures, Vancouver’s tourism promoters were also keen to adopt the Games as their own. Vancouver Tourist Association (VTA) business manager R. H. Baker acknowledged that hosting the Games would ‘do a lot for local sports’ but emphasised that the event would also ‘place Vancouver in the mind of the world as a year-round sports playground’. [69] VTA official Jack Bain went so far as to predict that 200,000 visitors would stay in Vancouver during the week the Games were held. [70] Pleased, but not satisfied, with this number, the VTA embarked upon a determined campaign to host a series of international sporting events during summer of 1954 in the hope of maximising the Games’ publicity value and attracting tourists throughout the entire summer rather than settling for the anticipated increase in tourist visits during the actual Games. [71]

‘Liquid Imperialism’ and Appropriations of the Games

While the Vancouver Tourist Association, along with sympathetic Games officials and ordinary citizens, was anxious to enlist Games publicity in the service of tourism promotion, other groups were anxious to appropriate the Games for their own purposes. Such appropriations ranged widely from attempts to capitalise commer- cially on the Games, to public statements endeavouring to appropriate the moral lessons of the Games for organised religion. Together these appropriations highlight the extent to which the Games retained a positive association that appealed to a number of different, and one might even argue competing, constituencies.

Not surprisingly, business interests were anxious to exploit the Games for com- mercial purposes. As the official history of the Vancouver Games acknowledges:

. . . scores of manufacturers all over North America and elsewhere . . . took advantage of the occasion and poured thousands of [Games] souvenirs of all kinds into the retail markets (china, ornaments, flags, plaques, jewelry, badges, caps, writing implements, etc).

Because these items ‘resulted in additional publicity for the Games’ themselves, officials were generally content to allow manufacturers to produce what they pleased. [75] The Vancouver Sun offered a similarly accepting evaluation of this development when it enthusiastically reported that a major British biscuit manufacturer was ‘really putting Vancouver on the map gastronomically, at last’, by producing ‘a tin of biscuits that has a painting of the big new Vancouver Stadium on its enamelled lid’ and that featured flags and coats of arms of the competing nations. [76]

However, if consumption intersected harmlessly with organisers’ desired aura surrounding the Games, the attempted appropriation of Games symbolism by organised religion was another matter entirely. Just weeks before the Games began, the organising executive launched an investigation into the ‘unauthorised use’ of the British Empire Games emblem ‘by a religious group planning to stage two evangelical rallies’ at the Pacific National Exhibition’s Forum during the Games. An organisation known as Youth For Christ had planned to sponsor two rallies in early August, one featuring Alberta Premier E.C. Manning and the other featuring British Columbia cabinet minister Phil Gaglardi. The rallies themselves were to be termed the British Empire Games Crusade for Christ and to generate publicity for their endeavours the sponsors were using the Games’ ‘red-white-and-blue pennant on their letterhead and on small religious booklets’. What followed was a series of meetings between Games organisers and Youth For Christ (YFC) officials in which the Games executive nixed the use of its symbolism. According the Rev. Robert Dyer, the YFC’s executive director:

. . . officials told the crusade committee that there was no violation in the use of the pennant, but their constitution states that no religious meetings could be held with their sponsorship and that the use of the pennant would seem to imply that religious meetings were being held under their sanction and sponsorship.

Faced with the executive’s opposition, the YFC booklet was promptly amended. [77] That Games officials tolerated, and even embraced, commercial endeavours seeking to appropriate Games imagery, but abruptly quashed the proposed evangelical crusade, was a telling measure of the extent to which imperial sporting events were no longer expected to be infused with evangelical meaning, as they had been in the 19th century. [78]

While the executive deemed appropriation of Games symbolism by an evangelical religious group inappropriate, the episode clearly spoke to the attractiveness of that symbolism among conservative causes. In a Sunday sermon delivered to his congregation at Marpole United Church, and subsequently published in the Daily Province, Rev. E. L. Bishop explored his chosen theme of ‘Athletes of the Spirit’. ‘Vancouver church people,’ Bishop explained, ‘could learn much from athletes who have come to the city to compete in the British Empire Games’. Concerned by the secularising culture he saw around him, Bishop argued that ‘the Christian life had more in common with the race run by an athlete than the lacklustre directionless course that marks the lives of many people today, even some nominal Christians’. Like all but one of the track athletes racing for the finish line, ‘many in the Christian race, because of carelessness in training or lack of real effort, may never achieve the Christian goal’. He urged his audience to follow the lead of these world-class athletes by controlling their body in pursuit of their spiritual goal and to maintain their sense of direction. Not willing to take his comparison too far, Bishop admitted:

. . . a major contrast between the athlete’s race and that of the Christian. The athlete runs for a corruptable [sic] crown, the laurel wreath or gold medal, representing honors and praises of men. The Christian’s prize is a divine reward—a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Bishop concluded his sermon by stating that modern psychologists and religious leaders agreed that most people failed to live up to their true capabilities:

Athletes like Haag, Bannister, Landy and Chataway have done a service for athletics by showing what unrealised possibilities in sports competition there are. Religious leaders like Paul, Livingstone, Schweitzer, Kagawa and, supremely, Jesus Christ have given us an even greater challenge in the realm of Spiritual living. [79]

Canada remained a Christian nation in the 1950s and the symbolism of the Games clearly appealed to religious leaders such as Bishop. [80]

However, the prescriptive ideals of British sportsmanship meant that Games symbolism was imbued with a sense of salvation that was embraced beyond the pulpit. Provincial government backbencher Bert Price supported the provincial grant for the Games partly on the grounds of its potential ameliorative effect upon the province’s youth. Indeed, Price suggested that the legacy of the event, perhaps both in terms of public spiritedness and the construction of new sports facilities, ‘would mean less juvenile delinquency and less expenditure on [penal] institutions . . . in the long run’. [81] Vancouver citizen Tom Howarth heartily endorsed Price’s position and enthusiastically reported that Price ‘has frequently stressed the importance of interesting our youth in clean sport, and that such endeavors call for the utmost support of government at various levels’. [82] More tangible connections between the Games and a desire to improve the welfare of youth included the Empire Commonwealth Youth Conference held during the Games that was expected to draw 150 boys and girls aged 16 and 17, 100 of them from the British Isles as part of a cultural exchange program. [83]

Such examples of third-party endeavours to associate their agendas with the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, combined with the generally favourable reaction to the Games as reported in the press, speaks to the fact that the imperial connection retained an acceptable and positive association for many English Canadians. And yet the pro-imperial and pro-Commonwealth sentiment expressed by Games organisers, outside observers, and those eager to appropriate Games symbolism was qualitatively different from the turn of the century jingoism that emphasised Anglo-Saxon superiority and gloried in British military conquests. To highlight this distinction while acknowledging the continuities between earlier expressions of imperialism and those expressed in the 1950s I should like to propose the term ‘liquid imperialism’ to describe the latter. [84] Such a characterisation highlights two important elements of the imperial tie in English Canada during the 1950s.

First, the term underscores both the continuities and the changes within English- Canadian imperial sentiment. Traditional expressions of imperial sentiment in English Canada were imbued with a sense of duty and self-confidence. Calls to contribute to imperial defence or to pay homage to the crown were understood to be self-evidently important and were connected directly to specific victories, losses, treaties, and religious doctrines that emphasised English-Canadians’ place among a select and superior breed. Such sentiment reflected an optimism that contributors to the imperial cause were engaged in a lasting project that would not only continue to build a foundation for Western civilisation, but also favourably affect the ‘less- civilised’ peoples of the world.

As the rhetoric of Games officials and supporters documented above confirms, confident pronouncements about the Empire’s contributions to world history could still be heard in Vancouver in 1954. Now, however, instead of contrasting British character against an Indian or African ‘other’, the British identity was expressed through more fluid notions of friendship and brotherhood. Moreover, rather than looking forward to more examples of imperial military and political success, imperial sentiment now looked back fondly (and safely) upon a shared ‘Commonwealth’ experience that minimised the very conflict that had served as a rallying point at the turn of the century. Solid binary opposites were giving way here to a more malleable, flexible and ‘liquid’ sense of imperial membership.

There is a second way in which the term serves a useful purpose. In the 1950s imperial sentiment existed in English Canada alongside other elements of Canadian political culture. It was an accepted, but not overtly dominant, part of the cultural landscape. Hence, even for an event so seemingly self-evidently ‘imperial’ as the Games, imperial sentiment shared pride of place with a wide variety of political discourses that championed, among other things, commercial development, Western Canadian political alienation, and an affinity for sports entertainment and consumerism. To carry the ‘liquid imperialism’ metaphor further, English Canada in the 1950s was neither devoid of imperial sentiment, nor totally immersed in it. It was, instead, one cultural current among many. Eschewing ‘solid’ metaphors that might view imperial sentiment in the 1950s as a foundation that was fracturing, for example, and embracing the notion of ‘liquid’ imperial sentiment, allows us to more accurately see English-Canadian imperial sentiment for what it was: a tide of thought that ebbed and flowed, and at times combined with other cultural currents.


The above analysis of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver suggests that in understanding imperial culture in Canada during the 1950s we not rely too heavily upon the binary opposition that encourages scholars to examine the relationship between sport and Empire solely in terms of overt domination and resistance. While it is true that organisers and supporters attempted, at times, to employ the Games as a tool to reinforce imperial and Commonwealth solidarity among participants and audience alike, this was rarely, if ever, a dominant or even hegemonic understanding of the Games’ purpose and rationale. Just as prominent were explanations, and arguments in favour, of the Games that focused on sporting dividends including an anticipated legacy of sporting infrastructure and a sense that the Games would provide Vancouver with a distinct advantage in obtaining future sporting events and professional sports franchises, as well as economic dividends that included worldwide publicity, outside investment, and a boost in tourism revenues. Similarly, while there were brief and admittedly pointed challenges to the legacy of colonialism associated with the Games, and that appropriated the event in order to offer countering arguments directed towards the champions of imperial and Commonwealth unity, such challenges were, at least publicly, few in number. Much more common were attempts to appropriate the symbolism of the Games in aid of a wide range of causes including commercialism, organised religion and even an attempt to combat juvenile delinquency. In short, there were a multiplicity of vernacular understandings of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Such a conclusion fits well with Jose ́ Igartua’s exploratory work on post-war English-Canadian national identity. In his examination of the 1940s and 1950s Igartua points to three different strands of English-Canadian nationalism. Two of these were ethnic-based expressions of identity: one British and the other bi-racial. A third strand, a civic nationalism, was also present but remained more muted until the 1960s. Post-war expressions of English-Canadian identity, then, were multifaceted rather than uniform. [85]

To recognise the multiple meanings of the Games is not to offer up a simplistic pluralist model of the Games’ political significance that suggests that a variety of groups employed the Games successfully to have their voices heard in the public sphere. Instead, by analysing popular perceptions of the Games we obtain a more complex and nuanced sense of Canada’s political culture in the 1950s than has been possible through studies that traditionally focused solely on the post-war cultural elite. In doing so we obtain a more comprehensive view of the context in which very real experiences of domination and resistance occurred. [86] The imperial tie here appears as an important element of the public debate surrounding this international sporting event. But it was just one element of the debate, and thus just one element of Canadian political culture. It was, however, there. And it was not simply expressed by visiting dignitaries. Local officials and supporters, newspaper reporters and everyday citizens also emphasised the importance of the imperial connection and Commonwealth unity. But just as frequently raised were more prosaic economic and social issues, many born of local self-interest. On one level, then, Vancouverites embraced the 1954 Games as an opportunity to celebrate, challenge and debate an issue of global significance—the transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. And it is clear that the city enjoyed its brief appearance on the global stage. But on another level the Games were understood in a very local context. It was a context that prioritised, among other things, civic economic development and expanded social services. That the debates surrounding the Games seem to have flowed back and forth seamlessly between these two planes of understanding is a telling if subtle indication of the state of the imperial connection among the English- Canadian public in the 1950s. The relationship between the Commonwealth Games and imperial unity was thus not nearly as straightforward as previous scholarship has suggested. The ideals of Empire continued to inform Canadian political culture but in a less direct and less complete fashion than they had just a few decades earlier. Sympathy for a (re-imagined) Empire was now one current of political culture among many in a complex and increasingly crowded public sphere.

The 1954 Games in Vancouver could hardly have been alone in generating multiple and conflicting meanings. Undoubtedly local, regional, and international identities generated a wide variety of tension and debate during future Games—and this phenomenon generates a number of important but as yet unanswered questions. How, for example, did newly-independent Jamaicans address the rhetoric of imperial unity when they hosted the Games in 1966? To what extent did tensions with the English complicate celebrations of Commonwealth unity in Cardiff in 1958 or Edinburgh in 1970 and 1986? Answers to these questions will tell us a great deal about the continuing connection between sport and imperial identities, as well as a great deal about the awkward transition from imperial to Commonwealth unity. And if, as part of the effort to seek answers to these questions, we are to heed Brian Stoddart’s advice and produce a thorough analysis of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, the notion of ‘liquid imperialism’ offers a promising place to start.


I thank Catherine Gidney, Bob McDonald, and the anonymous IJHS reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.


[1]  Brian Stoddart, ‘‘Sport, Culture,’’ 124.

[2]  See the following Katharine Moore articles: ‘‘A Divergence of Interests;’’ ‘‘StrangeBedfellows;’’ and ‘‘‘The Warmth of Comradeship’.’’

[3]  See Donald Macintosh et al., ‘‘Canadian Diplomacy,’’ as well as the brief but illuminatingtreatment of contemporary New Zealanders’ perceptions of the Games in W. David McIntyre,‘‘‘Viewing the Iceberg from Down Under’.’’

[4]  In his recent examination of post-colonialism, Robert J. C. Young emphasises postcolonialcritics’ emphasis on comparative histories of previously colonised regions as well as the important shift from national to local studies that highlight previously silenced voices. This article, as well as the larger project of which it forms a part, are informed by similar sentiments. They are also informed by Phillip Buckner’s call to reintegrate Canadian and imperial history. See Young, Post-colonialism and Buckner, ‘‘Was there a ‘British’ Empire?’’

[5]  The classic study of 19th century imperialist thought in Canada remains Carl Berger, The Sense of Power. Central to Berger’s argument is the contention that Canadian imperialists saw little contradiction in being both English–Canadian nationalists and ardent British imperialists. By the 1920s this connection between English–Canadian nationalism and British imperialism was clearly beginning to weaken, due in no small measure to Canada’s involvement in the Great War. On Canadian nationalism in the 1920s, see Mary Vipond, ‘‘The Nationalist Network;’’ ‘‘Canadian Nationalism;’’ and ‘‘Nationalism and Nativism.’’ Examinations of the British connection in Canada during later decades are rather more difficult to come by. One imagines this is the case, in part, because during the 1980s and 1990s (just the time when the 1930s–1960s time period was beginning to be investigated historically) studies of Canadian national identity were tarred with the brush of ‘old-fashioned’ history while Canadian historians were eagerly embracing social history and emphasising the importance of race, class, gender, and regional identities. There are some recent exceptions. The mid-century debate regarding preferential trade with Britain, for example, is usefully addressed in Bruce Muirhead, ‘‘From Dreams to Reality,’’ while Jean Barman’s study of the changing nature of private school education in British Columbia focuses directly upon the Britishness of the schools’ administrators, teachers and students. See Jean Barman, Growing Up British. Recent examinations of Canadian intellectuals’ antipathy towards American mass culture have also highlighted the extent to which a sense of Anglophilia informed many of the critics’ pronouncements. See, for example, L. B. Kuffert, A Great Duty, 23, 43, 59 and Philip Massolin, Canadian Intellectuals, Chapter 6. And yet apart from such specific studies of trade, education, or cultural policy, very little has been said about Canada’s British connection on the wider level of political or popular culture. A brief suggestive analysis of the former is Philip Resnick, Thinking English Canada, Chapters 3 and 4, while my own reflections on the latter appear in The Mountie from Dime Novel to Disney. A promising recent step in the right direction is Phillip Buckner, ed., Canada and the End of Empire.

[6]  Stoddart, ‘‘Sport, Culture,’’ 125, 128, 130.

[7]  Harold Perkin, ‘‘Teaching the Nations How to Play,’’ 153.

[8]  Quoted in Denis Judd, Empire, 16.

[9]  See J. A. Mangan, The Games Ethic, as well as Mangan, ed., Pleasure, and Mangan, ed., TheCultural Bond.

[10]  Allen Guttmann, Games and Empires, 5.

[11]  Ibid., 179.

[12]  Ibid., 180.

[13]  Mangan, ‘‘Prologue,’’ in The Cultural Bond, 4.

[14]  Kausik Banyopadhyay, ‘‘1911 in Retrospect.’’

[15]  Perkin, ‘‘Teaching the Nations How to Play,’’ 145, 147, 151.

[16]  Colin Howell, Blood, Sweat, and Cheers, 22. Like historians examining Britishness inCanada more generally, scholars examining the connection between imperialism, Britishness, and Canadian sport have tended to focus on the period before 1920s. See, for example, David W. Brown, ‘‘Militarism and Canadian Private Education,’’ and Alan Metcalfe, Canada Learns to Play.

[17]  As Denis Judd reminds us, such anti-colonial feeling and resistance could even find expression much closer to home, for ‘…in Scotland and Wales, too, dislike of English snobbery, overlordship and Toryism was widespread, manifesting itself in the tendency to vote for Liberal, and later Labour, parliamentary candidates, and in national rejoicing whenever English football or rugby teams were beaten at Hampden Park or the Cardiff Arms Park’. Judd, Empire, 235.

[18]  Stoddart, ‘‘Sport, Culture,’’ 124.

[19]  In this particular instance, the Australian Prime Minister squared off against Aboriginalprotesters as both sides turned to a sporting event in pursuit of political ends. Ibid., 125.

[20]  Guttmann, Games and Empires, 173.

[21]  See, for example, Boria Majumdar, ‘‘Imperial Tool ‘For’ Nationalist Resistance,’’ and J. A.Mangan and Kausik Bandyopadhyay, ‘‘Imperial and Post-Imperial Congruence.’’

[22]  Robert Cupido, ‘‘Appropriating the Past.’’

[23]  Judd, Empire, 133–136; quotations at 132, 133.

[24]  See Niall Ferguson, Empire, 313, 315 and Judd, Empire, 12 and Chapter 2.

[25]  John Bodnar, Remaking America, 15.

[26]  Vancouver Sun, 30 July 1954, 2.

[27]  Vancouver Sun, 30 July 1954, 1.

[28]  Vancouver Sun, 30 July 1954, 2.

[29]  Vancouver Sun, 30 July 1954, 1–2.

[30]  Ibid.

[31]  Vancouver Daily Province, 25 January 1950, 12.

[32]  Moore, ‘‘A Divergence of Interests,’’ 26–7.

[33]  Vancouver Sun, 22 April 1953, 14.

[34]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2.

[35]  Katharine Moore has highlighted the centrality of ‘family’ rhetoric in the campaign to establish the Games in 1930. See Moore, ‘‘Strange Bedfellows’’ and ‘‘A Divergence of Interests.’’

[36]  Even the organising committee’s internal communication reflected the obvious pride committee members felt in having the Duke of Edinburgh attend. University of British Columbia Special Collections, SPAM 15527, British Empire and Commonwealth Games Newsletter vol. 1, no. 3 (May 1953), 1 and vol. 1, no. 12 (March 1954), 1 are illustrative examples.

[37]  Vancouver Daily Province, 12 May 1953, 1.

[38]  Vancouver Sun, 23 February 1954, 2.

[39]  Vancouver Daily Province, 16 January 1953, 6.

[40]  Vancouver Daily Province, 26 July 1954, 8.

[41]  Vancouver Daily Province, 31 July 1954, 4.

[42]  Blair M. Clerk and Norah M. Scott, The Official History of the Vth British Empire andCommonwealth Games, 5.

[43]  Ibid., 11.

[44]  Ibid., 13.

[45]  Vancouver Sun, 1 October 1953, 21.

[46]  Vancouver Sun, 31 July 1954, 1–2.

[47]  Vancouver Sun, 16 April 1953, 2.

[48]  Vancouver Daily Province, 13 January 1950, 16.

[49]  Vancouver Daily Province, 13 January 1950, 16.

[50]  Vancouver Daily Province, 13 January 1950, 16.

[51]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2.

[52]  Vancouver Sun, 16 April 1953, 2. The quotation represents the Vancouver Sun’s paraphrasingof Clerk’s statement.

[53]  Vancouver Sun, 11 March 1954, 5.

[54]  Vancouver Daily Province, 23 July 1954, 11.

[55]  Vancouver Daily Province, 25 January 1950, 12. The mayor’s exploratory committee consistedof Bob Osborne, president of Amateur Athletic Union of Canada and Erwin Swangard, sportseditor of Vancouver Daily Province.

[56]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2.

[57]  Vancouver Daily Province, 8 March 1952, 3, 23 (magazine section).

[58]  Vancouver Daily Province, 8 October 1952, 21.

[59]  Vancouver Daily Province, 8 October 1952, 21.

[60]  Victoria Daily Times, 7 June 1950, 9.

[61]  Vancouver Daily Province, 13 May 1953, 4.

[62]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2.

[63]  Vancouver Sun, 8 June 1954, 19.

[64]  Vancouver Daily Province, 25 January, 1950, 12.

[65]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2.[66]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 12.

[67]  Vancouver Daily Province, 1 June 1953, 6.

[68]  Vancouver Sun, 1 September 1953, 13.

[69]  Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1950, 1–2. On the history of tourism in British Columbia, see MichaelDawson, Selling British Columbia.

[70]  Vancouver Sun, 16 April 1953, 2.

[71]  Vancouver Daily Province, 13 October 1950, 13. For example, one tourist pamphlet termedthe Games ‘the greatest tourist attraction of 1954’. City of Vancouver Archives, Mayor’s Officefonds, Series #483, 35-D-4, File 4.

[72]  Vancouver Sun, 12 May 1953, 1.

[73]  Vancouver Daily Province, 29 April 1954, 23.

[74]  Vancouver Daily Province, 12 August 1954, 21.

[75]  Clerk and Scott, Official History, 48.

[76]  Vancouver Sun, 1 June 1954, 20.

[77]  Vancouver Sun, 9 July 1954, 2; Vancouver Daily Province, 10 July 1954, 21. Vancouver Sun, 13July 1954, 3; Vancouver Daily Province, 13 July 1954, 18.

[78]  On the connection between sport and evangelism see Mangan, The Games Ethic, Chapter 6.

[79]  Vancouver Daily Province, 26 July 1954, 7.

[80]  On the continuing influence of Christianity in Canadian public life see Doug Owram, Born atthe Right Time, 103–105, and Catherine Gidney, A Long Eclipse.

[81]  Vancouver Daily Province, 8 October 1952, 21. This quotation is from the newspaper, notfrom Price directly.

[82]  Vancouver Daily Province, 16 January 1953, 6.

[83]  Vancouver Sun, 19 January 1954, 6.

[84]  My thoughts here, as the term would suggest, are informed by Zygmunt Bauman’s suggestivework on post-modern culture in which he draws a distinction between ‘solid’ and ‘liquid’modernity. See Bauman, Liquid Modernity.

[85]  Jose ́ Igartua, ‘‘The Quieter Revolution.’’

[86]  This was certainly the case for Canada’s aboriginal population. On aboriginal political initiativesduring the period, see Paul Tennant, Aboriginal Peoples and Politics, Chapters 9 and 10.


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The Emancipated Empire

The British Empire was first built on slavery and then on the moral and economic self-confidence of antislavery

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This is a list of words used in connection with the British Empire, the Commonwealth, and the Games that have been held under the aegis of both.