Newly-wed royal couple boost Commonwealth Games’ relevance: CEO

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan
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Royal couple Prince Harry and Meghan have provided an unexpected but welcome boost to the relevance of the Commonwealth Games, the quadrennial sports event’s chief executive David Grevemberg told AFP.

The American who has been in his role since 2014 after overseeing Glasgow’s successful hosting of the Games that year based his assumption on how the “Commonwealth Movement”, as he prefers to refer to his body, raises tough issues.

He compared that to how the royal wedding of a mixed race American women to a member of Britain’s royal family on Saturday tackled themes such as slavery in an impassioned sermon from an American preacher during the service.

The relevance of the Commonwealth Games has been questioned but the recent edition on Australia’s Gold Coast passed off successfully with social issues such as same-sex marriage and the rights of indigenous people being raised.

“No question the wedding has given us an unpredicted boost as it affirms these conversations we are having and the relevance of the Commonwealth as an important entity in the world that is not isolated,” Grevemberg said at an event at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London.

“The Commonwealth is quite important and has enormous opportunity and potential and I think with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan’s new titles) they will be amazing champions in that space.

“People talked about issues round the royal wedding and the Royal Wedding also had the courage to talk about these issues.

“This is innately what Commonwealth Games represents: this safe place for courageous conversations and bold and brave action.”

Grevemberg, who cut his teeth in sports administration at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), highlighted the issue of slavery as one of those they touched upon.

“I am a white guy who grew up in the south of the United States,” he said.

“The legacy of slavery is everywhere but growing up there it was never talked about and is not embraced still to this day despite civil rights.

“I will never know what it is like to be the descendant of a slave, yet I do know what it is to be a white man of privilege.”

That background means Grevemberg wants sensitive issues brought up and not pushed into a dark corner.

He believes that Prince Harry and Meghan’s youthful appeal will help them find a huge and willing audience within the Commonwealth.

“I think the Commonwealth will really embrace them and Prince Harry and Meghan will respect, listen and learn as well.

“I think they have already shown a propensity to do that, both learning from each other and the wider Commonwealth.

He said he was excited to see how they played to the wider audience, particularly “for the youth of the Commonwealth, 60% of whose population are under 29.

“They will talk to them directly these are their peers their future global community and they will play an enormous role in perpetuating this.”

Grevemberg, a former wrestler, does not believe that even with the considerable boost of Prince Harry and Meghan that all social ills will be resolved.

“We are not the panacea and we don’t have all the answers,” he said.

“But by bringing up some of these issues we can change the dial.”