Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – A blast from a didgeridoo, a sprinkling of royal stardust and a strong message of unity lit up the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast on Wednesday.
A heavy downpour lashed the 35,000 crowd at Carrara Stadium as the beach-themed ceremony began, ensuring a wet start for many in the half-covered arena.
Britain’s Prince Charles and wife Camilla were guests of honour and the heir to the throne officially opened the Games, signalling 11 days of competition featuring 71 nations and territories.
As the ceremony sprang to life, the camera panned in on an Aboriginal family planted in the crowd and a girl with a smartphone. The message on the screen read: “Welcome to the oldest living culture on Earth.”
A scene of a group of friends surfing gave way to a virtual journey through space and time as the stadium was engulfed in a galaxy of stars and warm blue light, followed by a performance of indigenous song and dance.
However, just outside the stadium, about 100 Aboriginal activists protested against what they have labelled the “Stolenwealth Games”, a reference to the plight of indigenous people since British settlement.
After a warm welcome for Charles and Camilla, and the singing of Australia’s national anthem, the stage transformed into a beach scene complete with inflatables, high-fiving sunbathers, macho lifesavers and dancing, bare-chested surfers.
A member of the City of Gold Coast Lifeguards, standing atop a yellow-and-white lifesaving hut, cried “G’day” as 2014 hosts Scotland emerged as the first team to parade in to the arena.
Every team was led into the stadium by a “Nipper” — a young surf lifesaver — gripping a surfboard and wearing heavy sunblock across their noses to complete the look, even if it was night-time.
Later a giant replica of Migaloo, the white humpback whale which has become a symbol of environmentalism in Australia, floated gently into the stadium before the ceremony finished in a blaze of fireworks.
The 21st Commonwealth Games will be the first to have an equal number of men’s and women’s medals events, and a record number of para events — which are held as part of the main programme.