Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers (and giant cans of Irn Bru) welcome in Glasgow's Games
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
With a potential global audience of up to one billion people, all eyes were on the city of Glasgow to witness an exhilarating start to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The opening ceremony of the 20th Games got under way in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 40,000 spectators in the Celtic Park stadium with Scottish comedian Karen Dunbar welcoming the sporting nations to Scotland to mark the official start of the 11-day tournament where star athletes including Olympic medal winners Tom Daley, Usain Bolt and Mo Farah will all be competing.
From the moment the giant kilt lifted to reveal pantomime star John Barrowman, it was clear that the wit as well as the famous wisdom of the Scots was being showcased. So too the irrepressible spirit of the people of Glasgow. Where else would the disfigurement of a national symbol (albeit an Anglo-Irishman) - the traffic cone which has repeatedly and drunkenly been used to adorn the head of the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square for the past 30 years - be celebrated as part of a national story before a billion-strong television audience?
The ceremony had been quite rightly robbed of the gaudily insensitive and ill-thought out centrepiece that was to be the demolition of the remains of the Red Road flats. Instead they glittered defiantly in the sunset against the Glasgow skyline as the crowds streamed in.
It fell to Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle to deliver a sugary re-versioning of “Mull of Kintyre” in tribute to the Queen, a veteran of such evenings who has been attending the Games in her capacity as head of the Commonwealth since Edinburgh 1970. Meanwhile, as people inside Celtic Park luxuriating in the balmy evening roared their delight, the baton completed its 120,000 journey by Loch Lomond sea plane, landing and taxiing up the Clyde. For the best part of an hour the 4,500 athletes processed through the stadium, each team led by a Scots Terrier.
Video: Glasgow Games begin
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.
But this was more than just so much tartan kitsch. Proceedings would not have been complete without the presence of Billy Connolly, perhaps the most famous living Scot of all who started out as a welder in the Govan shipyards. He was beamed by videolink to proclaim his native city's support for the late South African President Nelson Mandela. This stadium has over years been the setting for some of sport's most hostile clashes between the city's Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers - two football sides divided bitterly by religious bigotry.
Singer John Barrowman performs during the opening ceremony (Getty)
Tonight it was, fittingly, a place welcoming people of all faiths and cultures for the start of the Friendly Games. 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 carping over the hundreds of millions spent on new venues, the security, the unsold tickets, the traffic jams and the no-show sports stars was blown away in a blaze of pyrotechnics and Scottishness. If the next 11 days is as pleasing this it will be a canny Games indeed.
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.
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