It was a night with multiple messages at the Opening Ceremony of the 22nd Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium. Birmingham, the melting pot of the United Kingdom, basked in its glory of the past, its heroes and their contributions to British society and the world, and finally showcasing its ambitions of the future.
The messages on Thursday (July 28) ranged from raising a voice against homophobia and demanding dignity for LGBTQ+ community to ‘Education and opportunities for young girls’ to a celebration of multi-cultural tradition and diversity.
It was also the night of the first multi-disciplined Games without any Covid-19 restrictions.
The underlying message encompassing it all is what the Games has adopted: ‘Sport is Just the Beginning’.
Birmingham’s adopted daughter
Even as the nearly two-and a-half-hour spectacle prominently celebrating Birmingham’s rich industrial heritage, had the 30,000-odd spectators enthralled, the Prince of Wales; Tom Daley, British diver and one of the most famous LGBTQ athletes, with six others including Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand by his side spoke out against homophobia.
Birmingham’s adopted daughter and activist Malala Yousafzai, originally from Pakistan, delivered an equally powerful message, saying, “Tonight teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham to celebrate friendship across borders.
“They represent millions of girls and boys and our shared goal, 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 her chance to fulfil her potential and pursue her wildest dreams.”
Also read: 15 interesting facts about India at CWG
Malala, 25, now lives in Birmingham. She campaigns and raises funds for girls’ education programmes in her native Pakistan. She survived a major assassination attempt in 2012 when she was shot in the head.
Daley with Pride Flags
Then even as the ceremony was drawing to a close, Daley emerged with Pride Flags flanking as part of an “historic” statement against homophobia. Each of his six final torch-bearers represented a different cause or under-represented minority that is closest to their heart.
Daley had earlier tweeted, “Tonight at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, myself and 6 extraordinary LGBTQ+ athletes and advocates from around the Commonwealth will be carrying the Queen’s baton into the stadium. In over half of the Commonwealth countries, homosexuality is still a crime and in 3 of those countries the maximum punishment is the death sentence.
These laws are a legacy of colonialism. This Opening Ceremony for us is about showing LGBTQ+ visibility to the billion people watching so I wanted to shout out the incredible six people I will be walking into the stadium with.”
Dutee Chand was one of them and he tweeted a picture of the group.
— Dutee Chand (@DuteeChand) July 29, 2022
Celebrating the occasion, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall made a stylish entry in an Aston Martin, the most iconic of British cars and were a convoy of 72 cars which collectively formed a Union Jack when viewed from the skies and on the skycams.
After reading out a message from his mother, the Queen, Prince Charles officially declared the 22nd edition of the Games open.
The Prince of Wales said, “Tonight, in the words of the founder of the Games, we embark once again on a novel adventure here in Birmingham, a pioneering city which has drawn in and embraced so many throughout its history. It is a city symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth, and one which now welcomes you all in friendship.”
Charles delivered The Queen’s message to the Commonwealth Games: “(The Games) remind us of our connection with one another, wherever we may be in the world, as part of the Commonwealth family of nations”.
Adding to the ‘Brummies’, as the people of Birmingham call themselves, charm and contribution were the local musical heroes Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi who came right at the end. The waiting crowds expectedly broke into raptures.
There was much else like the Red Arrows fly-past and the 10-metre high ‘Raging Bull’, which also drew attention to the travails of female chain-makers in the early 20th century.
Women’s T20 among sporting firsts; also more medals for women
Even on the sporting front there will be some ‘firsts’ for Birmingham 2022 as women’s T20 cricket makes its debut in the hope of finding a place in the Olympics in the future. Then there is also 3×3 basketball, which indicates an evolution of America’s favourite sport.
One of the highlights of the Games will be that there are more medals for women, 136 as compared to 134 for men, another first for the Birmingham Games. More than 5,000 athletes will compete in 280 events across 19 sports in the next 10 days.