Organization: Canada Post
Product: Brochure
Year: 1978

Product copy

Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Games According to Nietzsche, the German philosopher, “The belly is the main reason why man does not mistake himself for a god.” All is not lost, however, for though many Canadians are groaning under a heavy burden, the Commonwealth Games will encourage them to become fit.

The Games will take place from August 3 to 12 in Edmonton, a fitting tribute to the city’s international prominence. The Alberta capital has come a long way since 1795 when Europeans erected two rival fur trading establishments in the area. Even in 1900 Edmonton failed to impress Bob Edwards, the controversial prairie publisher. He pronounced the region’s homes uninteresting and stated, “They contain nothing but enlarged pictures of deceased Ontario relatives.” Today, having achieved world economic power, the city will become a centre of international sport, thanks to the Commonwealth Games and the new 42,500-seat Commonwealth Stadium.

Bowls, also known as lawn bowling, is one of two sports seen at the Commonwealth Games, but not at the Olympics. The object of the game, which is played on a large, level green, is to roll the bowls as near as possible to a stationary ball called a jack. The pastime is rooted in prehistory, though one should not forget that historians tend to trace nearly every sport back to the Stone Age. Nevertheless, a rudimentary but recognizable form of bowls had evolved by the thirteenth century. Sixteenth century enthusiasts added a bias to the balls, causing them to travel in a curved rather than a straight line.

For a seemingly sedate game, bowls enjoyed a surprising amount of notoriety. In 1361 King Edward III banned it and other sports to promote archery, a skill vital for national defence. Naturally, bowls thrived. It fell into disrepute only in the seventeenth century when besmirched by excessive gambling and drinking. In the nineteenth century the Scots resurrected the pastime and this perhaps accounts for its similarity to curling. Indeed, the resemblance is so strong that it is hard to explain why Canadians devote themselves to the one while largely ignoring the other.

The new Commonwealth Stadium will host track and field. These running, jumping and throwing events are the heart and soul of the Commonwealth Games. Spectators can look forward to some first-rate competition if past performances are any indication. The 1954 Games at Vancouver witnessed the “Miracle Mile” when Roger Bannister of England and John Landy of Australia cracked the four-minute barrier. Twenty years later at the Christchurch, New Zealand, Games, Filbert Bayi of Tanzania won the metric mile race with what Bannister himself called “the greatest run I have ever seen.” Such accomplishments have popularized track and field in Canada despite the short summer and the emphasis on team sports.

The athletes deserve this recognition because they endure repetitious training, loneliness and pain in hopes of a brief and elusive moment of glory at the pinnacle of international competition.

The Commonwealth Games stamps were designed by Stuart Ash of Toronto. The two 14-cent stamps in a se-tenant format feature the Commonwealth Games Stadium and the sport of running. An interesting detail of this pair is the manner in which the horizontal yellow bands on the stamp featuring the runners merge into the representation of the track in the stadium stamp. The pair of se-tenant 30-cent stamps features on one stamp the city of Edmonton as symbolized by the Alberta legislature building presented against a stylized version of the foothills of the Rockies, and on the other stamp, the sport of lawn bowling. All four stamps retain the background of silver horizontal bands used in the earlier issue of Commonwealth Games stamps on 31 March 1978.


The physical version of this product is part of the federal identity archive.