The Rwandan women's beach volleyball team, competing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, marked the 24th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide on Saturday by wearing black armbands in their match against New Zealand.

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It was a hugely significant — yet widely unreported — event.

No action will be taken against the 2018 Commonwealth Games athletes because recognition of the anniversary was not only supported by international Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) officials but it was actually instigated by them.

At an early morning press conference, the CGF chief executive David Grevemberg announced there would also be a minute's silence ahead of the game.

"Following discussions with the Rwandan CGA (Commonwealth Games Association) president, as well as our own president, Louise Martin, we have agreed the anniversary will be marked and respected today," Mr Grevemberg said.

It was the latest in a determined effort by the CGF to take sport out of its self-imposed quarantine and confront the issues that affect, or have affected, their member states.

Recognition of Australia's first peoples has also been significant — from major components in the Opening Ceremony to the sound of didgeridoos, clap sticks, and indigenous singing being incorporated into medal presentation ceremonies, and the flying of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at all venues.

Athletes encouraged to connect with causes

Traditionally sports authorities go out of their way to ensure any statements of a "political nature" have no place at their events.

It is a tradition the new-look Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) appears to want no part in.

David Grevenmberg sits with Prince Harry at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Grevemberg told The Ticket the CGF was embracing the entire shared history of its 71 member nations and territories — "the good, the great, the bad and the ugly".

"The dial has shifted over the past several years and I think we've seen that sports [have] always been political," he said.

"What we've tried to do is make it less provocative and taboo in talking about the legacy of slavery or indigenous reconciliation or the legacy of sectarianism.

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"We firmly believe we can be a non-adversarial force for good in this world, that creates a safe place for courageous conversation and even more importantly a safe place for taking brave action and we're doing that — one games at a time, one city at a time, one moment at a time."

In another dramatic shift from the norm Mr Grevemberg says Commonwealth Games athletes should be encouraged to connect with causes they believe in — to encourage a sense of something larger than themselves.

"We have a wonderful athlete from Cameroon, Clotilde Essian, a boxer that is helping children in her country gain legal recognition by ensuring that they have birth certificates," he said.

"Every punch that she throws, every punch that she takes, she is fighting for the children of her country to be recognised as they should be.

"Because once you're recognised you actually have rights to education and healthcare and a future.

"She's not only a role model, she's a hero, and that is what we want being a Commonwealth athlete to represent."

It's difficult to imagine other major sporting organisations adopting a similar strategy of not just confronting world affairs but embracing them so openly.

"I think sport is facing the mood music, the zeitgeist, around people wanting more sincerity and more stylistically relevant discourse and connection on not only athletes that can achieve high performance for themselves … but that have a positive impact on others," Mr Grevemberg said.

Since taking on the top job after the Glasgow Games in 2014 the chief executive says the organisation has been pushing the bar on human rights.

Clotilde Essian

"We launched the first human rights approach of any major sporting event worldwide; we took a huge stance on gay marriage and addressed homosexuality and LGBT rights; we fought for children's advocacy and safeguards," he said.

"And by coming to Gold Coast … we had to ask the question 'what does Australia's proudest moment look like — for all people?"

"We had some very courageous conversations with the organisers here about how we could make this truly transformative for the first nations people of Australia, and the Yugambeh people from this land around the Gold Coast."

"It was very important to our character and identity and this notion of our modern relevance.

"Some people are paralysed by the fire and some people run into the fire and make it work for them — we're running into the fire and making it work for us."

It's a strategy that significantly turns up the heat on others — who claim they are making a difference despite not confronting the issues.

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