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Dheensaw, Cleve
Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1994. 195pp, paper, $15.95
ISBN 0-920501-81-8. CIP

Reviewed by Joanne Peters

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Need to know who won the 1992 Olympic Gold Medal for swimming the 400 metre freestyle? You can consult the reference shelf of most libraries, and a number of almanacs can readily supply the answer. But if you want to know who placed first in the same event at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, then you have a bit of a problem. Cleve Dheensaw's Commonwealth Games will not only tell who won the gold, but will probably tell you something interesting about the winner, the particular event, and much more.

Histories of Olympic sport abound, but chronicles of other cross-continental games are few. As the first comprehensive history of "The Friendly Games" (as the Commonwealth Games are often known), Dheensaw's book fills a long-standing gap. This book not only describes the setting and highlights of each set of games, but also provides an important historical overview of the British Commonwealth, how it came to be, and why it continues to exist.

The launching of any international event creates challenges and difficulties proportional to the scale of the project, and the Games have certainly seen their share of political interference. But Dheensaw prefers to focus on the good will that seems to dominate the Games, quite unlike the cutthroat rivalry that has poisoned so much of the idealism behind the Olympics.

Dheensaw doesn't try to overlook the reality of doping and drug scandals; in fact, because his interest is in the human interest side of sport, he sees the flaws as well as the strengths of the competitors he profiles. Each chapter contains a one-page essay highlighting an athlete whose performance at that particular Games was especially worthy of note.

A sportswriter for the Times-Colonist in Victoria (where the 1994 Games took place), Dheensaw has already produced a history of sport on Vancouver Island and a history of lacrosse in British Columbia. The Commonwealth Games is his most ambitious project to date, and, to compile background material, he undertook two research trips, conducted hundreds of interviews, and drew upon his own academic interest in the history of the British Empire.

The Commonwealth Games definitely deserves a place in Canadian school libraries. Although the photos are in black and white, they still provide useful illustrative material, and the book lends itself both to browsing and to cover-to-cover reading. Since the book has so much information on so many athletes, an index of names would have been a very useful addition. However, this is a small complaint about an otherwise fine book, which is a bargain at $15.95.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Sisler High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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