The final make-up of the sports on the Commonwealth Games program is determined by the host nation. There are three sports that have been on every Commonwealth Games program: Boxing, Athletics and Swimming. In new rules announced in 2021, athletics and swimming are the only compulsory sports for the Commonwealth Games, meaning there is flexibility for organizers to add different and varied disciplines to the program. The host city can then include additional sports from a list of optional sports/disciplines.
There is also a list of four core Para-Sports for elite athletes with a disability, which the host city must include (Athletics, Swimming, Lawn Bowls, Power Lifting). They can then include events from up to an additional three listed optional Para-Sports but not exceeding 20 events, which must be fully integrated into the overall Sports Program.
note, this has not been updated ...
The following information was taken from the Commonwealth Games Federation website in 2014. The criteria for selecting sports of the Commonwealth Games keeps changing so it may not now be completely correct.
The sport programme of the Commonwealth Games shall, at a minimum, consist of the following compulsory sports (disciplines) – Aquatics (Swimming), Aquatics (Swimming Para), Athletics, Athletics (Para), Badminton, Cycling (Road), Boxing, Gymnastics (Artistic), Hockey (Men and Women), Judo, Lawn Bowls, Lawn Bowls (Para), Netball (Women), Rugby Sevens (Men & Women), Squash, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Weightlifting, Powerlifting (Para), and Wrestling (Freestyle).
Quota positions shall be established for each compulsory sport (discipline). The total number of quota positions for compulsory sports (disciplines) shall not exceed 3,800 athletes unless otherwise agreed by the CGF Executive Board.
A Candidate City/OC may select optional sports (disciplines) from the following list – Archery (Recurve), Aquatics (Diving), Basketball 3x3 (Men and Women), Basketball Wheelchair Para 3x3 (Men and Women), Cricket (Men and Women), Cycling (Mountain Bike), Cycling (Track), Cycling (Track Para), Gymnastics (Rhythmic), Shooting (Clay Target), Shooting (Full Bore), Shooting (Pistol), Shooting (Small Bore), Table Tennis (Para), Triathlon (Para), Volleyball (Beach).
Quota positions shall be established for each optional sport (discipline). The total number of quota positions for optional sports (disciplines) shall not exceed 500 athletes unless otherwise agreed by the CGF Executive Board.
Including compulsory and optional sports (disciplines), there shall be no more than 4 team sports on the programme of a Commonwealth Games. In such case whereby Basketball (3x3) is selected from the pool of optional sports, Basketball (Wheelchair Para 3x3) may be also selected (or vice versa) in which case the sport of Basketball shall be considered as one team sport. In such case whereby Cricket is selected from the pool of optional sports, Basketball (Wheelchair Para 3x3) may also be selected.
Number of Sports
The number of sports at each Games has increased steadily over the years, currently the number of sports in Birmingham 2022 is 19, the most ever. At the first Commonwealth Games, there were only six sports (1930, 1934), then 7 (1938), 10 (1950), 9 (1954-74), 10 (1978-94), 15 (1998) , 17 (2002) and 16 (2006). See our table of the changes in the number of sports. Only three sports have been on every Games program: Boxing, Athletics and Swimming.
As well as many Olympic Sports, the Commonwealth Games also include some sports that are played predominantly in Commonwealth countries, such as lawn bowls and netball.
What is a sport?
At the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, "aquatics" is classed as the sport, and diving, swimming and synchronized swimming are all disciplines. The same applies to cycling, with disciplines of track, road and mountain Bike. Gymnastics – Artistic and Rhythmic, and Shooting – Clay Target, Full Bore, Small Bore and Pistol also have disciplines within their sports.
In an effort to modernise the Games, in Malaysia 1998 the Commonwealth Games Federation decided to include team sports for the first time. In 1998 there were four team sports, Cricket, Hockey, Netball, and Rugby 7s. In 2002 there was three (netball, hockey, rugby 7s) and in 2006 four (Basketball was added). Current rules allow a maximum of four team sports to be included in the overall sports program.