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Athletics, swimming and cycling most popular Commonwealth Games sports

25 July 2022

The 2022 Commonwealth Games begin in Birmingham this week, with millions of Aussies set to run, swim and cycle alongside the Australian team.

Underwater view of a woman diving into a pool, wearing swimming cap and goggles
AusPlay research reveals 3.23 million Australians aged 15 and over take part in swimming.

New research from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) shows 9.37 million Australians aged 15+ participate in at least one of the 22 sports that will feature at Birmingham.

Athletics (including running and jogging) takes top spot among Australians 15+ with 3.48 million participants, followed by swimming with 3.23 million participants and cycling with 2.56 million participants. These top three are consistent across gender, age, location and those who speak a language other than English at home (LOTE).

The findings are revealed in the ASC’s national AusPlay report ‘Community Participation in Commonwealth Games sports’ which also looks at how participation has changed since the last Games in 2018.

Basketball, cricket, mountain biking and bowls are also popular among men. For women, netball is ranked fourth, followed by basketball, boxing and volleyball.

ASC CEO Kieren Perkins OAM said Australians were also inspired to try new sports following the 2018 Gold Coast Games.

“Mountain biking has increased in popularity since the 2018 Games with participant numbers more than doubling across all age groups. We’ve also seen more people in the 15-34 age group take up badminton and table tennis, while weightlifting is more popular among those aged 15-34 and 35-54.”

The number of participants in basketball, mountain biking and weightlifting has more than doubled among the LOTE community (those who speak a language other than English at home).

Since 2018, the number of participants in cycling, swimming and weightlifting who live with a disability has also increased significantly.

When it comes to children (aged 0-14), 1.34 million girls participate in a Commonwealth Games sport while the figure is slightly smaller for boys at 1.26 million.

Swimming is the most popular sport for children across all age groups followed by basketball, cricket and athletics for males, and gymnastics, netball and basketball for women.

“It’s clear Australians love their sport and the upcoming Games provides another great opportunity to be inspired by our athletes competing on the world stage and to get involved in sport,” Mr Perkins said.

Sports like boxing, netball and table tennis have also become more popular in capital cities while bowls has more players from regional areas.

With the 2026 Commonwealth Games being hosted across four regional Victorian cities, Mr Perkins hopes it might inspire more Australians to try a new sport or get involved in the Games through volunteering.

AusPlay provides the sport sector with vital insights into the sport and physical activity behaviours of adults and children and critical evidence to inform strategies to grow participation.

AusPlay findings

Top 5 Commonwealth Games sports for children

  1. Swimming (1,611,000)
  2. Gymnastics (457,000)
  3. Basketball (345,000)
  4. Netball (318,000)
  5. Athletics (242,000)

Australia's record at the 21 Games between 1930 and 2018

  • 2,102 medals (818 gold, 667 silver, 617 bronze)
  • Placed first on the medal table 13 times
  • Australia has never ranked lower than 5th on the medal table
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