Commonwealth Games begin

glasgow

The 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony has taken place at Celtic Park in Glasgow.

Thousands of athletes from 71 nations and territories took part before a 40,000-strong crowd and a global TV audience up to one billion people.

Their traditional parade around the stadium followed a live show featuring about 2,000 cast members.

The Queen declared the Games open by reading her own message from inside the Commonwealth baton.

Adventurer Mark Beaumont landed on the city’s river Clyde in a seaplane carrying the baton to Celtic Park, having tracked its progress across the Commonwealth on a 288-day journey spanning almost 120,000 miles.

Inside the stadium, the baton was transferred between a group of volunteers who have helped children around Scotland find their potential through sport.

Sir Chris Hoy carried it on its final stage to Prince Imran of Malaysia, who struggled briefly to open the container and remove the message to hand to the Queen.

¬†Her Majesty then spoke of the “shared ideals and ambitions” of the Commonwealth and highlighted the “bonds that unite” the 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, in her role as head of the Commonwealth, then sent her best wishes to the competing athletes.

Events inside the stadium are being shown to the assembled guests and crowd on Europe’s largest LED screen.

The giant display, which stands across the whole of the stadium’s South Stand, is almost 100 metres long, 11 metres high and weighs 38 tonnes.

Other adaptations to the venue include a specially-created stage floor covering the entire pitch and a multi-coloured walkway specifically designed for the athlete’s parade.

Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor opened proceedings with a pre-recorded video message, before Glaswegian comedian Karen Dunbar struck up an elaborate song and dance number celebrating Scotland, accompanied by Torchwood star John Barrowman.

The routine welcomed visitors from across the Commonwealth to Glasgow and included larger-than-life representations of famous Scots inventions, landmarks, cultural heroes and Scottish history.

Rod Stewart was joined on stage by Bishopbriggs singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald alongside hundreds of ordinary Glasgow citizens to perform a version of his classic song Rhythm of My Heart.

Later in the ceremony, dancers from Scottish Ballet performed a routine to an acoustic version of The Proclaimers hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

Pipe band

The Scottish Regiment Pipe Band arrived in the stadium to accompany Susan Boyle performing the Paul McCartney and Wings song Mull of Kintyre, as the Red Arrows performed a flypast over the city to signal the arrival of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

India, the hosts of the previous Games in Delhi in 2010, were the first team to enter the arena and received a warm welcome.

The remainder of the competing nations arrived according to geographical region, led by a Scots representative wearing tweeds and walking a Scottie terrier bedecked in a jacket bearing the name of each country.

The England team were met by loud cheers from the crowd as the European nations entered the stadium, Northern Ireland were led by cyclist Martyn Irvine and the Wales team sported black Harrington-style jackets with tartan lining.

The loudest reception of the night was reserved for the host nation Scotland, who paraded into Celtic Park last, according to Games tradition, accompanied by The Shamen’s hit Move Any Mountain.

 Towards the end of the ceremony a message was delivered live from the International Space Station to the Commonwealth nations, and Scots musician Nicola Benedetti performed a violin solo as the Games Federation flag was raised.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute to the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, leading a silence before welcoming the participating nations to the Games in English and Gaelic.

The sentiments were echoed by Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson and the Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran of Malaysia, who both encouraged and promoted a spirit of competitiveness and friendship.

Glasgow band Primal Scream closed proceedings as fireworks went off all across the city.

Temperatures in Glasgow earlier reached 25 degrees C, officially the hottest day in Scotland this year.

The Games will feature 17 sports across 11 days of competition, beginning on Thursday.

The closing ceremony will take place at Hampden Park on the south side of the city, which has been transformed into an athletics venue, on 3 August.