Glasgow: The 2014 Commonwealth Games got off to a colourful start with some enthralling performances by singers Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and violinist Nicola Benedetti at the Celtic Park and a minute’s silence for the victims of the Malaysian Airlines crash here Wednesday.
The British Queen Elizabeth II declared the Games open after more than two hours of colourful ceremony that was participated by some 2,000 cast members and 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories.
“The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.
“And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games,” the Queen said in her speech.
During the ceremony, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond called the crowd and athletes together to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the 298 people who died when flight MH17 crashed in the Ukraine.
The crowd also became emotional when comedian Billy Connolly via a video message reminded that this is the first Commonwealth Games since the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Conolly also recounted how Mandela was awarded the the Freedom of the City by Glasgow in 1981 while he was still in prison on Robben Island. In 1986 Glasgow renamed St George’s Place – the street on which the South African consulate-general was based – after Mandela.
The ceremony started with Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor opening proceedings with a pre-recorded video message followed by jigs from Scottish actor John Barrowman and comedian Karen Dunbar.
Dunbar appeared in the crowd and marched down to stadium centre telling the crowd and the world that “we’re a land of inventors and poets and dreamers, we’re enlightened, creative and fun.”
Fittingly, Barrowman appeared from beneath a giant kilt aboard a tartan jeep decorated with some highland cow horns.
The ceremony celebrated the diversity of Glasgow and what the city and Scotland have in common with the 70 other competing nations.
From whisky, golf, Dolly the Sheep, marmalade, fountain pens and the Kelvin Scale, some of Scotland’s finest exports werr exhibited during the opening ceremony at the Celtic Park, which is the home of Celtic Football Club.
The players’ parade was led by India, by the virtue of being the previous hosts. London Olympics silver medallist Vijay Kumar proudly carried the tri-colour.
India’s female atheltes were dressed in green sarees and sported the team blazer, the males proudly flaunted the red turbans.India were followed by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan and Brunei.
The Malaysian athletes sported black armbands and their nation’s flag was at half mast in honour of the victims of the national airline’s two recent tragedies.
The contingents were led by a Scots representative wearing tweeds and walking a Scottie terrier in a jacket and sporting the name of each country.
The parade ended with the current host, Team Scotland. At the end of the parade, athletes and team officials were seated on the field of play, in the centre of the live show that followed.
Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar from India, and a UNICEF goodwill star, in a pre-recorded message urged people to donate generously for the development of the children of the world.
More than 4,500 sports persons from 71 Commonwealth nations will participated in the parade for the Games that will showcase 17 disciplines over 11 days of competition. The closing ceremony will take place at Hampden Stadium Aug 3.