Publish date:


The Commonwealth of Nations consists of 49 countries and a billion
people, united by history and a sentimental allegiance to the British
Crown. Every four years since 1930 -- excepting the years 1942 and
'46 -- athletes from those members have met at the Commonwealth
Games. At this year's games, just concluded in Edinburgh, a boycott
by 32 Third World countries, protesting British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher's refusal to impose economic sanctions on South
Africa, left a heavy emptiness. In addition, many of the athletes
who did attend the games chose to boycott Thatcher's official visit
to Meadowbank Stadium last Friday.
This disruption of the games, which ordinarily constitute the
friendliest of international sports festivals, frustrated both
athletes and officials. Mike Fennell, who is Jamaica's representative
to the Commonwealth Sports Federation and whose country joined the
boycott, said in exasperation, ''We must get a commitment from the
politicians to leave the games alone in the future.'' Fennell's
demand is unrealistic. Members of the CSF considered appealing to the
49 heads of government for just such a cut-and-dried pledge during
meetings this week in London. There was immediate dissent. As
federation members realized that such a proposal would be futile,
support for the pledge drive diminished. The CSF membership
eventually approved a watered-down appeal. By week's end it was
decided that Commonwealth of Nations secretary general Sir Sonny
Ramphal would ''carry the view'' of the sporting body, but wouldn't
actually request a formal pledge from governments.
Even as the Commonwealth Games were limping along, another
antiapartheid protest occurred across the North Sea. In a predawn
raid following the first round of the Dutch Open, activists stole
onto the Noordwijk Golf Course and tore up three greens with shovels.
were found scattered on the course. The 3rd and 11th greens were so
badly damaged that second-round play in the tournament was limited to
just 16 holes.
The reason for the protest: Two players in the tournament held
South African passports -- one, Hugh Baiocchi, had entered the
Netherlands on an Italian passport; the other, Philip Simmons, on an
Australian -- and two other players were said to have residences in
South Africa. It was not, by a long shot, the first time that
outrage over apartheid had spilled over into golf. Two decades ago a
young South African golfer, Gary Player, sometimes needed a police
escort when he competed in the U.S.