The 2022 Commonwealth Games officially got underway with a dazzling opening ceremony at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Thursday, July 28, 2022.
Birmingham took on the responsibility of staging the 2022 Games after Durban in South Africa was stripped of hosting duties for failing to deliver on promises made in its bid. It is the first multi-discipline event since the start of the pandemic to be held without major COVID-19 restrictions.
Prince Charles, representing his mother Queen Elizabeth II, arrived in his Aston Martin along with his wife, the duchess of Cornwall.
Several vintage cars, in red, white, back and blue got together to form a Union Jack, paying tribute to Birmingham’s motor industry history.
Drummer-percussionist Abraham Paddy Tetteh started things off at the Alexander Stadium that was packed to the rafters, before classical vocalist and composer Ranjana Ghatak took the lead, the section intended to showcase the diversity of the host city.
Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games will break new ground with more medals awarded to women (136) than men (134), a first for a multi-sport event.
As many as 30,000 spectators packed into the renovated Alexander Stadium, while over a billion people watched it on television.
After a spectacular demonstration of Birmingham’s culture and diversity, the evening paid a tribute to Charlie Chaplin, with the legendary comedian being hailed as one of the city’s heroes.
There was a mention of William Shakespeare too, as the broadcasters spoke about the Shakespeare First Folio which is in the new Library of Birmingham — the largest public library in the UK.
Then there was a gargantuan bull in the stadium, pulled along by overworked, underpaid female chain makers of the Industrial Revolution.
Perry the Bull, the Games mascot, got its name because of the city’s iconic Bull Ring market, which has been around for hundreds of years.
Malala Yousafzai, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent part of her recovery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital after being shot in the head by a Taliban terrorist, had a special message.
‘Every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her widest dreams,’ Malala told the audience.
While the evening celebrated Birmingham’s cultural diversity and tolerance, Britain’s Olympic diving champion Tom Daley, who came out as gay in 2013, used the moment to remind everyone that some Commonwealth nations still enforce homophobic colonial-era laws.
Daley, who is not competing in Birmingham, ran the Queen’s Baton into the darkened stadium as LGBTQ+ flags lined his path.
One of the highlights of the two-and-a-half-hour long ceremony was local favourite chart-topping band Duran Duran who delivered the finale to the stunning night in the city where their career began 44 years ago.
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also performed, while talented young singer from the Ribble Valley, Samantha Oxborough, sung the British national anthem God Save the Queen
A massed choir of over 700 voices, comprising 15 choirs from across the West Midlands reverberated the arena, led by Carol Pemberton and Black Voices, one of Europe’s leading female Acapella groups.
The Royal Marines produced rousing trumpet fanfare while Grammy-winning guitarist Iommi and saxophonist Soweto Kinch led a dream sequence entitled Hear my Voice, based on the title track from the 2020 film Trial of the Chicago Seven, re-imagined by Birmingham-born R&B vocalists Indigo Marshall and Gambimi.
Steven Knight, the creator of the acclaimed British crime drama Peaky Blinders, was the creative mastermind behind the ceremony that had more than 2,000 performers tracing the story of the city’s glorious past and present, while also reflecting the links between the 72 countries and territories in the Commonwealth Games.
The parade of nations witnessed nearly 5,000 athletes from 72 countries and territories, who will compete for medals in 19 sports over 11 days.
The Parade of Nations started with Australia, the hosts of the previous Games in the Gold Coast in 2018, striding out first.
Double Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and hockey captain Manpreet Singh were the flagbearers for India, who hosted the Games in New Delhi in 2010.
Sri Lanka, battling a severe economic crisis, sent its largest-ever contingent for the Games as 114 athletes turned up from the island nation.
Hosts England were the last team to walk out as they thrilled the home fans, walking out to Queen’s We Will Rock You.
Photographs: Getty Images
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