What Are the Commonwealth Games? All About the Sporting Event That Royals Are Flocking to This Week

Kate Middleton, Prince William and more are heading to Birmingham for a sporting event dating back to 1930

Queen Elizabeth II presents the baton to British Paralympic athlete Kadeena Cox during the Baton Relay for Birmingham 2022, the XXII Commonwealth Games
Queen Elizabeth in 2019 starting baton relay. Photo: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Let the Commonwealth Games begin!

On Thursday, Prince Charles will represent Queen Elizabeth at the opening ceremony of the XXII Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Throughout the sporting event, which runs until August 8, there will be plenty of royal sightings, including famously athletic couple Kate Middleton and Prince William.

The Commonwealth Games, often referred to as the "Friendly Games," invites athletes from the 72 member states to compete in sporting events. They began in 1930 as the British Empire Games and have been held every four years (with the exception of 1942 and 1946) since. This year, 4,500 athletes from 72 and territories are expected to participate in the multi-sport event.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a>, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-william/" data-inlink="true">Prince William</a>, Duke of Cambridge attend the gymnastics during the Commonwealth Games
Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Prince William at 2014 Commonwealth Games. Karwai Tang/WireImage

Throughout its history, the Commonwealth Games have been the site of many momentous athletic achievements. At the 1954 Vancouver Games, Roger Bannister and John Landy became the first people to break the four-minute mile, in a race that became known as the "Miracle Mile."

"The encouraging ethos of the Games has stirred athletes to sprint faster, leap higher and push themselves to the very limits of what the human body is capable of," according to the event's website.

The Commonwealth Games also includes a fully integrated para-sports program.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> II presents the silver medal for the High Jump to Ann Wilson of England, as gold medalist, Debbie Brill of Canada, looks on, at Meadowbank Stadium, during the British Commonwealth Games
Queen Elizabeth at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In October, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward appeared outside Buckingham Palace to officially launch the Queen's Baton Relay ahead of this year's Commonwealth Games. The monarch passed the baton to Paralympian Kadeena Cox, who became the first baton bearer of the 294-day relay that took the baton on a 90,000-mile journey to all 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth before arriving in Birmingham.

The baton also carried a secret message from the Queen, which will be read at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

Queen Elizabeth, who has started every Commonwealth Baton Relay since 1958, serves as patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation, while Prince Edward has the role of vice-patron.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-charles/" data-inlink="true">Prince Charles</a>, Prince Of Wales and deputy leader of the Nationals party Bridget McKenzie (left), during the India V New Zealand women's basketball game at the Commonwealth Games
Prince Charles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Brian Cassey - Pool/Getty Images

In a message released ahead of the opening ceremony, Prince Edward thanked all participants for the roles they played in making the Games happen.

"To all athletes, officials, spectators and visitors I bid you a very warm welcome and thank you all for coming. It simply wouldn't be the great festival of sport it is without you," he wrote. "Yet the Games are more than just about sport, they are the greatest manifestation of the Commonwealth: our extraordinary collection of countries linked together through a myriad of bonds of common interests and relationships. The parallel arts festival is an integral part of this celebration and reminds us of our shared values and the tremendous talent that exists across our family of nations."

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<a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a> meets Usain Bolt during a visit to the Commonwealth Games Village
Usain Bolt and Prince Harry at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Danny Lawson - WPA Pool / Getty Images

It's unclear if Queen Elizabeth will make an appearance at this year's event. Last week, she traveled to Scotland for her annual summer break at her Balmoral estate.

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