Birmingham: The region’s rich musical heritage and inclusiveness took center stage here during the opening ceremony of the 22nd Birmingham Commonwealth Games. A joyful evening offered an astonishing abundance of colour, light and dance.
Drummer-percussionist Abraham Paddy Tetteh started the business in the packed Alexander Stadium, then Indian classical singer and composer Ranjana Ghatak took charge, the section meant to showcase the diversity of the city.
It was refreshing because the Birmingham Games is the first multidisciplinary event since the start of the pandemic to be held without major COVID-19 restrictions.
Meanwhile, as many as 70 cars in red, white and blue came together to form a Union Jack, even as Prince Charles, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, arrived in his Aston Martin car along with the Duchess of Cornwall. The formation of cars was a tribute to the incredible history of the automotive industry.
Just before that, the city paid tribute to the Queen, even if a montage featuring her dates back to the black-and-white era.
After a spectacular demonstration of Birmingham’s culture and diversity, the evening paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin, hailing the legendary comedian as one of the city’s heroes. In fact, between London and Birmingham, his birthplace has been the subject of much debate.
There was also a commendation to William Shakespeare as the broadcasters talked about the Shakespeare First Folio which is housed in Birmingham’s new library – the largest public library in the UK.
Through the printing press, the history of the place was shown in all its glory.
Then there was a giant bull in the stadium, pulled by overworked, underpaid female chain makers of the Industrial Revolution. Until the time when the raging bull raged there, it was the cynosure of all eyes at the glittering ceremony.
The Games’ mascot, Perry the Bull, takes its name from the city’s iconic Bull Ring market, which has been around for hundreds of years.
“Our 72 countries and territories are all here and Birmingham looks beautiful,” said Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).
“I believe this event will be one of the largest and most important Commonwealth Games in our 92-year history,” she added.
Then the Parade of Nations began.
In CWG tradition, Australia, hosting the last Games, entered the Parade first, followed by the rest of the Oceania region.
Then other countries made their way to the arena in alphabetical order from their respective regions.
The nations of Africa, America, Asia and the Caribbean followed, and then came the 2010 Games host nation India, with double Olympic medalist badminton ace PV Sindhu and men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh leading the contingent to cheers from the stands.
Again, as is the norm, host country England came in last with “We will, we will rock you” in the background.
Birmingham entered the spirit of the Mexican Wave right from the start of the ceremony, displaying grandeur, rich culture, diversity and heritage.
The Commonwealth Games ceremonial flag was taken out and hoisted, after which CGF President Martin walked out to deliver a speech, after which the Prince of Wales read the Queen’s message to declare the Games open.
LGBTQ+ activist and British Olympic champion Tom Daley, a winner of four Commonwealth golds in the pool, brought the Queen’s Baton into Alexander Stadium, accompanied by an entourage of LGBTQ+ flag bearers.
One of the highlights of the two and a half hour ceremony was local favorite band Duran Duran, who delivered the finale on the beautiful evening in the city where their career began 44 years ago.
Renowned musician Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also performed, while the talented young singer from the Ribble Valley, Samantha Oxborough, sang the British national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’.
A massive choir of over 700 voices, comprising 15 choirs from across the West Midlands, echoed the arena, led by Carol Pemberton and Black Voices, one of Europe’s leading female Acapella groups.
The Royal Marines put on a 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, reimagined by Birmingham-born R&B artist. singers Indigo Marshall and Gambimi.
Steven Knight, creator of the critically acclaimed British crime drama ‘Peaky Blinders’, was the creative mastermind behind the ceremony with more than 2,000 performers following the story of the city’s glorious past and present, while also reflecting the ties between the 72 countries and territories in the Commonwealth Games.
The Games, set to become the largest and most expensive sporting event in the UK since the 2012 London Olympics, have been hit by the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s been almost 10 years since the acclaimed opening ceremony of the London Games.
The opening act marked the beginning of 11 days of sporting action in the city. More than 5,000 athletes from 72 countries will compete in 280 events across 19 sports across 15 venues.
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