Belfast Telegraph

A fling for the Commonwealth

Nessie, teacakes, Irn Bru and Rod... it's a braw bricht colourful nicht as games open

By Steven Beacom

The 2014 Commonwealth Games are up and running, having exploded out of the blocks with a spectacular opening ceremony in Glasgow filled with song, dance, colour, emotion and fun... and of course the athletes who aim to thrill and inspire us over the next 11 days of competition.

Celtic Park is home to the famous Hoops, but last night it played host to 71 other teams and gave each and every one, including Northern Ireland, a mighty welcome.

London had the 2012 Olympics. To the people of Glasgow this is just as big.

An audience of one billion watched last night's opening ceremony and more than one million spectators will be in Glasgow to cheer on 6,500 athletes in 17 sports during the 20th Games.

If last night is anything to go by, everyone is in for quite a ride.

From 6pm, with the sun splitting the stones, 40,000 fortunate people filed into Celtic Park in short sleeves beaming from ear to ear. What greeted them was a football stadium turned into a huge theatre and a pitch covered with, among other things, a giant kilt, titanic tartan boxes and scores of mega-sized teacakes.

Celtic Park had never seen anything like it. This place normally rocks to goals from the Bhoys in Hoops... soon those in the stands were cheering a cast of thousands dancing the night away, making them forget having to pay £2.50 for an instant coffee and £5.50 for a small cup of popcorn chicken, whatever that is, in the packed concourses prior to the entertainment.

When a rumour swept around the stadium that a gin and tonic was £7.40, things could have turned nasty.

But this was a night when the party city had its biggest party of all, with the lads and lasses from Glasgee determined to enjoy it.

The warm-up acts got going once the clock struck 20:14 (2014... geddit?).

Glasgow-born John Barrowman was under the giant kilt, bursting out in song as the movers and groovers around him celebrated the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Gretna Green, Robert Burns, the River Clyde, the Highlands and the Loch Ness Monster plus St Andrews, the home of golf, where Rory McIlroy will win another Open Championship next year.

Better was to come with local girl Amy McDonald singing a belting version of Rhythm of My Heart, kicking off the section of the show that had the masses clapping their hands and stamping their feet.

Rod Stewart, a regular in the Celtic Park stands on big match days, kept the beat going with a typically throaty performance. The hits continued with SuBo herself, Susan Boyle, dressed to the nines in a purple outfit, singing Mull Of Kintyre as images of a young Queen were displayed on the big screen.

Her Majesty and Head of the Commonwealth, with Prince Philip, was up next, welcomed by the majestic Red Arrows overhead.

Respectful applause and cheers all round followed God Save the Queen at Celtic Park. And you thought you had seen and heard it all!

The teams, led as always by the previous hosts, were on their way. India had the honour this time greeted by the traditional Glasgow welcome 'Come on in...'

In a change to previous games, the nations did not enter the arena alphabetically. Instead they arrived by region –Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and so on – rounding off with Europe, who won the gold medal for taking the most pictures on their phones.

The Aul' Enemy, England, were greeted with genuine warmth but the volume increased dramatically with the arrival of a happy bunch from Northern Ireland, led by our World Champion cyclist Martyn Irvine.

The shy and retiring Paddy Barnes showed off a Cliftonville top under his team suit.

Fellow boxer Steven Ward did the same with a Rangers shirt.

Scotland, head to toe in tartan and fired up like extras from Braveheart, were the last team out. Cue the biggest roar of the night. LOUD and PROUD. Spine-tingling stuff.

Rod sang again, Sir Chris Hoy handed the Queen's baton over to the lady herself and a memorable show was done.

Journey's end for Queen's baton

The Queen's baton reached its final destination at the opening ceremony after a journey of more than 120,000 miles. The baton has travelled through 70 nations and territories since it was sent on its way by the Queen at Buckingham Palace last October. The hand-crafted baton, made of titanium, wood and granite, has been carried by tens of thousands of people on its way to Glasgow.

Tribute to victims of airline tragedy

Victims of the MH17 plane crash were remembered at the opening ceremony. The Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down while flying over a rebel-held area of Ukraine last Thursday, killing 298 people. Prince Imran from Malaysia, the games federation's president, said: “I am from Malaysia and it's another sad occasion for our country, and for the airline.”

Prince of Wales leads royal team

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met athletes, volunteers and officials before attending the opening ceremony. Charles and Camilla, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, visited the Emirates Arena and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in the city's east end. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrived later.

Cyclists take a very wrong turn

Four members of Sri Lanka's games team sparked a police response when they were spotted going for a ride down one of Scotland's busiest motorways. Four Glasgow 2014 athletes were spotted cycling down the M74. A police spokeswoman said: “Advice and assistance was given and the cyclists were advised to get off the road.”

Heat is on with glorious forecast

The opening days of the games look set to have weather as warm as the welcome in the host city. Forecasters are predicting “stunning” conditions in Glasgow, not usually famed for its sunny skies. Temperatures are predicted to reach as high as 26C as the city experiences the same mini-heatwave we’ve enjoyed in Northern Ireland.

Olympic legacy rises to £14bn

A four-year target of raising £11b for the UK economy from deals signed during the London Olympics has been surpassed two years early, the Prime Minister has announced. Contracts, sales and foreign investment linked to UK Trade and Industry's British Business Embassy during London 2012 have passed £14bn this year.

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