Commonwealth Games Australia has launched a virtual exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Commonwealth Games ©CWA

Commonwealth Games Australia has launched a virtual exhibition to mark the anniversary of the 1970 British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, which began 50 years ago yesterday.

Coronavirus restrictions have made it impossible to have a traditional reunion for surviving members of the 107-strong team which enjoyed great success; instead their achievements will be celebrated with an online display of photographs, films and memorabilia from the Games.

"A range of archive material has been uncovered including the 1970 Games film and photos and these will be supplemented by stories that look back at the Games and celebrate the performances of Australia’s athletes", said a CGA statement.

The material will be made available on social media outlets until July 25.

The team had flown to Edinburgh by chartered plane via Singapore and Tehran at a cost of AUD98,000 - AUD1.2 million (£666,000/$840,000/€735,000) in toady's terms.

Among those honoured will be 80-year-old Pam Kilborn, who became the first woman to carry the Australian flag at a Commonwealth Games.

Kilborn, making her final appearance at the Games, had been chosen as a result of lobbying by team leader Arthur Tunstall.

"She has been a wonderful athlete, spokeswoman and ambassador for her country," he said.

Kilborn told reporters: "I was so thrilled I couldn't sleep. 

"I never dreamt I would be given such an honour. 

"It was even a greater thrill than winning any of the gold medals."

She completed a hat-trick of sprint hurdles golds, this time over the metric distance of 100 metres.

Kilborn also added 4x100m relay gold to bring her career total to six gold medals. 

In the same relay team was rising star Raelene Boyle, who had completed the individual sprint double in the early stages of a glittering career.

There was also plenty for Australians to cheer at the new Royal Commonwealth Pool.

The Official History of the 1970 Games wrote: "As Australia has dominated swimming since 1958 it was assumed this pattern would be repeated in Edinburgh and this pattern proved correct."

The "swimming star" was 16-year-old Karen Moras, who lowered the 800m freestyle world record and added two further individual golds.

Olympic champion Michael Wenden won both freestyle sprint events and added two further relay golds to return home with four - a feat emulated by Lynne Watson, later to become a leading sports administrator.

Australia topped the medals table with 36 golds and Raelene Boyle, centre, won three of them ©Getty Images
Australia topped the medals table with 36 golds and Raelene Boyle, centre, won three of them ©Getty Images

The CGA tribute will also remember team members who have passed away.

Future Olympic 200m breaststroke champion Bev Whitfield won three golds in Edinburgh, but died in 1996 aged only 42.

For legendary distance runner Ron Clarke, who died in 2015, Edinburgh 1970 was a farewell to top-level international competition.

Destined never to win gold at a major international championship, Clarke won his fourth Commonwealth Games silver medal in the 10,000m.

The late Ray Rigby wrote the first chapter of an unusual Commonwealth Games career with super-heavyweight weightlifting gold.

He later competed in the shot at the 1974 Games in Christchurch.

Rigby, who passed away in 1998, was one of four Australian lifters to win in Edinburgh.

Team chief Tunstall had accompanied members of the team to Holyrood House to attend a Royal Garden Party.

When the team returned home, Tunstall called upon the sporting authorities to "bring out the band" to acknowledge "the greatest sporting team ever to leave Australia.

"They won more gold medals than any other earned abroad and also were the best-disciplined team. 

"They gave tremendous publicity to Australia and proved to be the best-ever ambassadors."

Not all team members returned at the same time but Perth airport was reported to have given a "specially warm welcome" to swimmer Watson who "turned the air terminal into a scene of bubbling excitement" when she displayed her four gold medals.