The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham kick off with a colorful carnival

The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham got underway with a colorful carnival at Alexander Stadium on Thursday night.

Local music heroes Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi guest-starred on an evening celebrating Birmingham’s industrial heritage and multicultural tradition, as contestants from the 72 Commonwealth nations and territories were cheered into the arena by a crowd of 30,000.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived in style, driving into the venue in an Aston Martin as part of a convoy of 72 cars forming a Union Jack when viewed from above.

Charles later officially declared the 22nd edition of the Games open, with a spectacular fireworks display that closed the ceremony and heralded the start of the world’s first major multisport event to be held free of Covid-19 restrictions since the pandemic began.

Charles delivered the Queen’s message to the Commonwealth Games. In it, she said the Games “remind us of our connection to one another, wherever we may be in the world, as part of the Commonwealth family of nations”.

The Queen’s Embassy described Birmingham as “a pioneering city that has attracted and embraced so many people throughout its history”.

“It is a city symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth and which now welcomes you all in friendship,” the message said.

The Red Arrows flyby flies over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham at Alexander Stadium (Zac Goodwin/PA).

(PA Archive)

A breathtaking spectacle also included a flyby of the Red Arrows and an appearance of a 10-metre-tall ‘Raging Bull’ in a segment of the ceremony focused on the plight of women chain makers in the early 20th century.

More than 5,000 athletes will compete in 280 events across 19 sports over the next 10 days, with a parasports program integrated into the Games. It will also be the first major multisport game to award more medals to women than men – 136 and 134 respectively.

Other ‘firsts’ for the Birmingham Games include a Commonwealth debut for women’s T20 cricket and for 3×3 basketball, as the Games continue their quest to evolve and stay relevant.

Event organizers want these to be inclusive Games, but the presence of Olympic diving champion Tom Daley as relay carrier highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community across the Commonwealth.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 35 Commonwealth countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and Daley’s determination to take a stand is particularly relevant in a year hosting the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is legal forbidden is.

Daley’s fellow staff members included Olympic gold medalist gymnast Max Whitlock – who does not compete in these games – boxer Galal Yafai, British Paralympian and junior doctor Kim Daybell and retired ice hockey player Alex Danson-Bennett.

The ceremony also included a performance by activist Malala Yousafzai. The 25-year-old, who now lives in Birmingham, supports educational programs for girls in her native Pakistan and collects donations.

Her determination to stand up for her beliefs nearly cost her her life when she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2012.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai addresses the crowd during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (David Davies/PA)

(PA wire)

“Tonight, teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham in celebrating friendship across borders,” Malala said.

“They represent millions of girls and boys and our common goal of where every child can go to school, where women can fully participate in society and where families can live in peace and dignity.

“Remember, every child deserves their chance to fulfill their potential and pursue their wildest dreams.”

The slogan “Sport is Just the Beginning” is everywhere in the city.

Games organizers want sport to be the vehicle to start conversations and stimulate the action needed to tackle inequality and discrimination across the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham kick off with a colorful carnival

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