2022 Commonwealth Games Kicks Off Spectacularly In Birmingham
Birmingham opened its Commonwealth Games in spectacular style with a captivating, hopeful ceremony at Alexander Stadium.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai emphasized the importance of education in a surprise appearance while diver Tom Daley made a show of support for LGBTQ+ rights as the baton relay concluded.
But the biggest shock perhaps came when a 10m tall animatronic bull came steaming into the stadium as part of a ceremony that celebrated the multiculturalism of both Birmingham and the Commonwealth.
As the parade of athletes concluded, each of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were warmly received before host nation England arrived in a cloud of confetti to send the volume skyrocketing with a crowd rendition of We Will Rock You.
The Games are officially open, with events beginning on Friday and more than 5,000 athletes representing 72 nations and territories competing in 280 medal events until 8 August.
It was a ceremony of light and shade, switching suddenly between uplifting sequences to moments of rage and turmoil.
A joyful – and slightly bizarre – moment with Shakespeare and three other giant puppets turned darker as a tower at the end of the stadium was engulfed in images of flames to symbolize a library that burnt down with a collection of Shakespeare’s works inside.
Then Malala – who became a Birmingham resident after receiving treatment there when she was shot by the Taliban as a teenager in Pakistan – entered the stadium to the largest cheer of the night.
She spoke as passionately as always about children, particularly girls, having access to education before welcoming the crowd to Birmingham.
Nothing demonstrated the move between light and dark more than the moment Drag Race star Ginny Lemon’s song celebrating Birmingham’s pioneering achievements came to an end as a giant raging bull entered the stadium – passing the spotlight from one icon to another.
The bull was tamed by the ceremony’s leading star Stella, who then climbed on top and rode it around the stadium to swelling music before Birmingham’s favourite son Sir Lenny Henry interrupted proceedings to welcome 72 teams of excited athletes into the arena.
England were the last to come in, with the crowd’s singing making their entrance all the more intimidating.
Daley then entered to finish off the baton relay along with other English favourites including hockey player Alex Danson and gymnast Max Whitlock.
Prince Charles opened the Games as he read a message from the Queen calling Birmingham “a pioneering city… symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth”.
Fireworks followed as LED lights lit up in the crowd and Birmingham’s own Duran Duran entered to bring the party to an end as the giant bull swayed its head to the beat.