SCOTLAND turned on the style last night as the 20th Commonwealth Games began with a tartan-tinged opening ceremony that mixed pomp, pride and patriotism to spectacular effect.
A worldwide TV audience of more than one billion people tuned in for the celebrations at Glasgow’s Celtic Park, described by organisers as the most prestigious live event ever staged in the country.
Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and Amy Macdonald were among the Scottish singers who performed in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at the ground in the east of the sporting extravaganza’s host city. Other stars in the ceremony’s cast of 1,300 performers included comedian Karen Dunbar and actor John Barrowman.
One fast-moving sequence featured the firing of the One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, a giant haggis and Tunnock’s famous teacakes.
But, much as she did at the opening of the London 2012 Olympics, it was the Queen who proved the night’s main attraction.
She attended the ceremony with the Duke of Edinburgh to formally raise the curtain on Glasgow 2014, the first Commonwealth Games held in Scotland for 28 years.
The Queen’s part in proceedings included the reading of a message that had been kept hidden inside the Games baton during a worldwide relay. Members of the audience joined in the singing of God Save The Queen by Robert Lovie, with the mountains and glens of Scotland as a backdrop on a huge screen.
Other traditional elements of the evening included a parade of the athletes from the 71 participating nations and territories of the Commonwealth.
Sheffield’s Nick Matthew, a multiple squash world champion, led Team England into the stadium after being named as the squad’s flag bearer.
The ceremony’s organisers also teamed up with Unicef to ask TV viewers to donate to its Children of the Commonwealth Fund. Earlier, a party atmosphere had taken hold in the area around Celtic Park.
People heading to the stadium could be heard singing in the streets on a sunny day that saw temperatures hitting a high of 25C (77F).
Jamaican fans in traditional dress danced and drummed, providing a contrast with the sound of bagpipes and the sight of spectators in tartan dresses and kilts.
Thousands of revellers also flocked to Glasgow Green to enjoy live music in the hours before the opening ceremony.
Performers at the warm-up bash included Eddi Reader, Rab Noakes and Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire, with local girl Lulu headlining the event.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Commonwealth Games Scotland chairman Michael Cavanagh said: “What we are about to deliver in Glasgow, I think, will be the best ever Commonwealth Games, for sure.” First Minister Alex Salmond, meanwhile, said: “The Commonwealth Games traditionally are known as the friendly Games.
“The whole of Glasgow, the whole of Scotland, is determined to ensure that these Games live up to that billing and that they become recognised as the friendliest Games and the finest Games ever.’’
The competitive action in Glasgow starts today, with more than 4,500 men and women going for glory in events across 17 sports until August 3. More than 1.1 million tickets have been sold.
Last night’s ceremony followed an announcement that a four-year target of raising £11bn for the UK economy from deals signed during the London Olympics has been reached two years early.
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