Scroll To Top
history of australian rowing at olympic games

History of Australian Rowing at the Commonwealth Games

The Origins of the Games

The British Empire Games were first conducted in 1930 and have been conducted every four years since excluding 1942 and 1946 due to World War II. Rowing was included as a sport in 1930, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1986.

The first recorded Commonwealth event was however, conducted in 1911 and known as the "Festival of Empire". It was held in connection with the Coronation of His Majesty King George V. The programme consisted of track & field, boxing, wrestling and swimming. The most successful nation was Canada and they were presented by Lord Lonsdale with a magnificent silver trophy of some 2 feet 6 inches high.

The idea of an Empire Games was reignited by the friendliness amongst Empire athletes at 1928 Olympic Games. The revival of the Empire meeting was established.

The first Commonwealth Games (then known as the British Empire Games) took place in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1930. Bobby Robinson, a key force within athletics in Canada, finally initiated the event that had been talked about amongst Commonwealth nations for over thirty years. Eleven countries boasting 400 athletes in total participated in the first Games. $30,000 was provided by the City of Hamilton to these nations in order to defray travel costs of teams.

1938 souvenir programme

Souvenir Programme
1938 Sydney Australia 

Since then, the Games have been conducted every four years except for 1942 and 1946, due to World War II. Seventeen Games have been held in total, with four of these hosted by Australian cities — Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982 and Melbourne in 2006.

From 1930 to 1950 the Games were known as the British Empire Games, then the British Empire and Commonwealth Games until 1962. From 1966 to 1974 they took on the title of British Commonwealth Games and from 1978 onwards they have been known simply as the Commonwealth Games.

While other Games around the globe have been founded on geographic or climatic factors such as the Asian, Pan American, African Games and Winter Olympics, the Commonwealth Games has been founded on history.

It is said that one of the unique characteristics of the Commonwealth Games included being the only Games which share a common language. All athletes and officials can converse with each other in English, creating an atmosphere that has led to the Commonwealth Games being long known as the "Friendly Games".

The Commonwealth Games Association claim that unlike other sporting events, the Commonwealth Games brings together nations from every corner of the world in a unique family spirit of shared history, of common experiences, of a uniting language, of links that transcend cultural barriers and physical borders.

In Australia, the governing body is the Australian Commonwealth Games Association.

Australian representation and results at:

(*indicates Games in which rowing was included or a Commonwealth Regatta was held)

Rowing Events


Men's single scull, double scull, coxless four, coxed four and eight.


The AARC was bitterly disappointed that neither rowing nor sculling was included in the programme. The following protest was issued:

"That the Australian Amateur Rowing Council express its astonishment and keen disappointment that such prominent sports as rowing and sculling have been omitted from the programme of the British Empire Games, most particularly when the Games are being held in the heart of the Empire, which is the home of the two sports mentioned."

This resolution was adopted by the Australian Empire Games Association with the further resolution:

"That a definite programme respecting British Empire Games be drawn up to include all major sports and only in cases where any particular sport, through practical competitive conditions not being available, could they be deleted."

In his report, the Australian delegate to the British Empire Games Association stated that the finalisation of the events was to be left to the financial guarantors; in the case of the London Games this was decided by the directors of White City and Wembley Stadia.

1950 and 1954

Men's single scull, double scull, coxless pair, coxed four and eight.

1958 and 1962

Men's single scull, double scull, coxless pair, coxless four, coxed four and eight.


The Jamaican Games did not have rowing facilities and so the sport was not included in the programme. This was to the relief of the administrators of the sport and most rowers at that time as the vast funds required sending rowing teams for the limited competition proved the competition was not warranted.

The Commonwealth Games Federation web site reports:

"With the British Empire formally ended, the Kingston Games became the VIII British Commonwealth Games. There was a worry amongst the larger nations that Jamaica's infrastructure would not enable a successful Games delivery — but this proved to be largely unfounded.

"Controversially, also, the event programme was altered for the first time since 1950 with lawn bowls and rowing dropped and replaced with badminton and shooting instead."

1970, 1974, 1978 and 1982

No rowing events conducted


Men's single scull, double scull, coxless pair, coxless four, coxed four, eight, lightweight single and lightweight four.
Women's single scull, double scull, coxless pair, coxed four, eight, lightweight single scull and lightweight double scull.

1990 onwards

No rowing events conducted.

In 1994, the Australian Rowing Council determined in conjunction with other Commonwealth nations that rowing should be supported as the Commonwealth nations were a strong force in the sport of rowing. A Commonwealth Regatta was conducted by the Commonwealth Rowing Association in London Ontario in August 1994. This regatta did not form part of the Commonwealth Games. It was fortuitous that the World Championships were being conducted at Indianapolis USA in the same year.

Another Commonwealth Regatta was held in 2002 in Nottingham England.

The Commonwealth Rowing Association continues to investigate coastal rowing as a future Commonwealth Games sport.

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management