Glasgow (Scotland), Jul 24: With symbols of the Forth Bridge west to Edinburgh, Scotch whisky barrels, Edinburgh Castle gate and cannon, Scottish Tartan kilt at the central stage, the opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Scotland’s largest city presented a combination of sports and culture in a distinguished Scottish style.
Reading her message in the Queen’s Baton to welcome the athletes, the Queen Elizabeth II formally announced the opening of the Games, stressing “the shared value and ambition” of the Commonwealth in front of a 40,000 crowd at Celtic Park, reported Xinhua. After a 288-day relay touring about 190,000 km and inside the stadium, the final Queen’s Baton relay was carried by Britain’s six-gold-medal Olympian Chris Hoy, who grew up in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.
Joined by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II entered the opening ceremony site in a Rolls-Royce car, followed by the audience’s upstanding and singing of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen”. The Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force aerobatic team, performed a flypast over Glasgow to signal the arrival of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The opening ceremony also paid tribute to the 298 victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as proposed by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who later welcomed the athletes to Scotland. Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson and the Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran of Malaysia both encouraged and promoted a spirit of competitiveness and friendship.
Events inside the stadium were shown to the honoured guests and spectators on a giant LED screen, which is almost 100-metre long, 11-metre high and 38-ton heavy, at the stadium’s South Stand. Through the screen, a message was delivered live from the International Space Station to the Commonwealth nations.
The display also featured the late former South African President Nelson Mandela, who had a strong connection with Glasgow and was awarded the Freedom of the City by the Glasgow Council in 1981 during his long period of imprisonment. About 2,000 cast members, including Scottish female singer Lulu, Susan Boyle and Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti, performed in the ceremony, which entertained the audience at the 1892-built and full-occupied Celtic Park.
More than 4,500 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories paraded in a one-hour journey from the Athletes’ Village in Dalmarnock in southeast of Glasgow, which is close to Celtic Park. Guided by the Scottish Aberdeen Terrier led by a staff with the delegation’s name on the dog’s back, each delegation entered the opening ceremony in regional order.
As the previous hosts of the Commonwealth Games, India led the parade, which ended with the current hosts, Team Scotland with judo player Euan Burton as the flag bearer. The ceremony ended with grand fireworks all across the city. The estimated global television audience of the opening ceremony was put at one billion people.
The Games featuring 261 events in 17 sports in 11 days of competition begin Thursday and the closing ceremony takes place on August 3 at Hampden Stadium, which has been transformed into an athletics venue with 44,000 seats.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held in Australia’s Gold Coast City, Queensland, April 4-15.