Glasgow opened the twentieth Commonwealth Games with a gay kiss, aimed at upsetting countries that had enacted anti-gay laws. The actor John Barrowman clasped the head of another man during the ceremony and kissed him on the lips, in an apparent act of defiance.
The openly gay Doctor Who actor kissed his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green – a location on the English border where amorous young English people can get married due to differing marriage laws – during the showcase at Celtic Park, Glasgow, last night. The stunt formed part of a quirky display in the presence of The Queen 40,000 other spectators.
The opening ceremony began with a message from actor Ewan McGregor OBE, who made a plea to support underprivileged children of the Commonwealth Games through the charity Unicef. His message was shown in Celtic Park by the largest screen in Europe, weighing a whopping three hundred tonnes.
Then John Barrowman arrived and sang “Welcome to Scotland” accompanied a giant kilt, bagpipes and plenty of tartan. Dancers took viewers on a stylised tour of the country, with routines that included dancing tea cakes, the Loch Ness monster, whiskey barrels and golf.
After the dancers, it was the turn of singer-songwriter Amy McDonald to lead a team of locals singing Rhythm of My Heart. Perhaps unsurprisingly she was joined on stage by Rob Stewart, who finished the song off. Stewart was followed by Britain’s Got Talent Star Susan Boyle, who sang Mull of Kintyre, originally by Paul McCartney. She was accompanied by pipers from the Scottish Regiment.
The arrival of the Queen was marked by the Red Arrows, the RAF aerial display team, with their trademark red, white and blue smoke. Her majesty was presented with a poesy of heather before the national anthem.
After a 120,000 mile journey the Queen’s baton was delivered by sea plane. Unlike the Olympics, it is not a flame and instead contains a message from Her Majesty. It was brought ashore by the cyclist Mark Beaumont, who travelled with the baton to every country and territory it went to.
The parade of teams was led by India, the country that accounts for half of the entire population of the Commonwealth. Malaysia paraded into the stadium with their flag at half-mast in honour of those killed on Malaysian Airlines MH17. Later in the ceremony there was also a minutes silence.
The arrival of the athletes was interspersed with short films about donating money to Unicef. The videos implied that the money was earmarked for children of the Commonwealth and would not be spent more generally. Breitbart London will be watching that space.
The event was not wholly without politics, not least when BBC presenter Huw Edwards declared during the parade: “And now the athletes from Tuvalu. Tuvalu is of course dealing with rapidly rising sea levels, so no wonder they can run so fast. Expect them to be taking Gold in swimming in the 2019 games.”
There is also politics around the timings of the games. They come at a pivotal moment for Scotland, just two months before they vote whether to leave the United Kingdom and become a fully independent country. The Scottish Nationalists will hope that the success of the games will prove that the country is able to go it alone.
However Unionists will also point out that Glasgow’s success will also be the United Kingdom’s success as the whole country has been integral to its delivery.
The first games were held in 1930 and since then the games have come to Scotland twice before, on both those occasions the host city was the capital Edinburgh. The last Edinburgh Games in 1986 was a disaster as thirty-two nations boycotted the games because the United Kingdom had refused to condemn apartheid South Africa.
Despite problems in the past the Commonwealth Games are known as the ‘friendly games’ as the competing nations are mostly former British colonies and not considered foreign to each other. Indeed commonwealth nations do not send Ambassadors to each other’s countries and instead call their diplomatic representatives High Commissioners.
The games themselves were first held in Hamilton, Canada and were called the British Empire Games. Since then they have gone through a number of name changes: in 1978 they become the Commonwealth Games, finally dropping any reference to Britain from the title.
Most former British territories are members of the Commonwealth, with Ireland and the United States of America being notable exceptions. The head of the Commonwealth is an elected position held by the Queen, who will hold the post until she dies. She is expected to be succeeded by Prince Charles when he becomes King but this is not guaranteed as he will have to be elected to the position by member countries.
Australia is expected to top the medals table as they have done at every Commonwealth Games since 1986, earning them the title “The USA of the Commonwealth”.