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Hosts Scotland on the gold standard

The first medals of the Commonwealth Games have been won as competitions got under way today.

Judo star Kimberley Renicks won the first gold for host nation Scotland in the women's under-48kgs final with victory over India's Sushila Likmabam.

The first medal of the games was won by England's Jodie Stimpson who took triathlon gold at Strathclyde Country Park, where England's Alistair Brownlee also won gold with his brother Jonathan Brownlee taking silver.

Scotland's first medal of the games went to Aileen McGlynn and pilot Louise Haston who won silver in para-cycling.

The Queen officially opened the 20th Games yesterday during a ceremony at Celtic Park, where a cast of 2,000 were involved in the two-and-a-half hour show which acted as a celebration of all things Scottish, from Tunnock's teacakes to the Forth Rail Bridge.

An audience of around 40,000 and an estimated one billion global viewers watched as competitors from 71 nations and territories paraded on the eve of the competition, with the biggest cheers reserved for Team Scotland.

During the ceremony Sir Chris Hoy joined Scottish actors James McAvoy and Ewan McGregor, the latter on screen, in an unprecedented appeal for donations to Unicef's Children of the Commonwealth Fund.

The charity said this evening that £3.5 million has so far been raised to help young people across the nations.

McAvoy said: "As a son of Scotland I couldn't have been prouder to have been part of last night's Opening Ceremony and support the incredible partnership with Unicef. £3.5m raised so far and rising - wow, what a historic moment! Thank you to everyone who donated - I know your money will be making a huge difference to children all over the commonwealth."

Sir Chris said: "It's been absolutely incredible to witness the power of such an amazing partnership between Unicef and Glasgow 2014.

"I'm immensely proud to be a Unicef UK Ambassador and to have visited Malawi and seen first-hand the life-saving differences we can make for children. I know how far the millions can go to help continue that amazing work. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and to have been part of this huge first for sport and children feels very special, a truly historic moment that will never be forgotten."

However the Games were dealt a blow today after Olympic hero Mo Farah pulled out just hours after the spectacular opening ceremony.

The d ouble Olympic and world champion announced this morning that he would not compete for Team England at the Games due to illness.

The London 2012 hero, who was expected to go for gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races, had been hailed as one of the star turns of the competition.

The 31-year-old athlete said: "I have taken the tough decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games.

"The sickness I had two weeks ago was a big setback for me."

Glasgow 2014 chief executive David Grevemberg admitted Farah's absence was a blow.

He said: ''There's no question we're disappointed that Mo Farah announced he would be withdrawing.

"We're very disappointed for Mo.

"We knew how much he wanted to be here.

''I'm sure there will be some disappointed people but there are plenty of great athletes who are here and will be competing.''

Farah had made good progress on his recovery from a recent illness but has chosen to focus on getting back to full fitness in time for next month's European Championships in Zurich.

His withdrawal comes three days after athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, new mother Jessica Ennis-Hill's heir apparent, was forced out of the competition by a foot injury.

It means long jumper Greg Rutherford, who has himself withdrawn from his last two competitions for fitness reasons after struggling with a knee problem, is the only member of the golden trio from Super Saturday at London 2012 left in the England team.

Meanwhile it emerged that proposals for the Red Arrows to release smoke in the blue-and-white colours of Scotland's Saltire at last night's opening ceremony were ditched in favour of their traditional red, white and blue.

Glasgow 2014 organisers said that, while the proposal was discussed with the Red Arrows, no formal request for blue-and-white smoke was ever made.

The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on reports that new Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had intervened to ensure that red, white and blue smoke was used.

''The Red Arrows are ambassadors for the United Kingdom and are famous for their red, white and blue smoke trails which represent the whole of the UK,'' said an MoD spokesman.

''The flypast was to celebrate the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Commonwealth and the presence of Her Majesty so it was fitting that red, white and blue were used.''

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ''The Scottish Government made no such approach regarding the Red Arrows, whose flypast was a spectacular highlight of a fantastic opening ceremony. Any claims to the contrary are completely untrue.

''Glasgow 2014, as organisers of the Games, independently contract a private company to organise and stage the opening and closing ceremonies. An approach was made by them to the MoD to explore whether it would be possible to have blue-and-white smoke in recognition of Scotland as the host Commonwealth nation.

"We believe that ultimately the UK Government did not want to proceed with this suggestion.''

The opening ceremony also featured a kiss between actor John Barrowman and a kilted male dancer.

Barrowman kissed his ''bride'' at a mock Gretna Green during the ceremony at Celtic Park, with the scene praised as a snub to homophobia in Commonwealth countries.

Today First Minister Alex Salmond was pr aised for supporting the gay community.

Speaking to an audience of international media representatives in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, he said: "Our sports minister opened Pride Glasgow today, which will have its message of equality and non-discrimination displayed, not just in the opening of one centre in Pride Glasgow, but the 70 events which are taking place as part of that initiative in Glasgow over the course of the Games.

"In St Andrew's House we fly the rainbow flag, sometimes called the pride flag internationally, for the course of the games.

"So, we demonstrate our commitment and we provide an exemplar in terms of what we believe in.

"That's what I think is the best way to state our commitment, it's by what we do and how we act and what we display and what we advocate."

Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: "I applaud Alex Salmond for making such a strong, affirmative commitment to the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people throughout the Commonwealth.

"F or LGBTI communities in the 42 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is still criminalised, this is a significant gesture of solidarity. It will comfort them and, I hope, discomfort their homophobic governments. It demonstrates the Scottish Government's commitment to a truly equal and inclusive Games."


From Belfast Telegraph