Cars, royals and Malala: Commonwealth Games opens in Birmingham

Birmingham: A tribute to the British car industry, the men who wrote the classics and a stirring speech from a teenage Nobel Prize winner has kicked off a dazzling opening to the Commonwealth Games.

Prince Charles drove himself and wife Camilla, the Duchess of Wales, into Birmingham’s Alexander Park in an Aston Martin in a convoy of 70 classic British-made cars, to start the epic three-hour ceremony to begin the 22nd Games which began with honours British cultural giants William Shakespeare, Edward Elgar and Samuel Johnson.

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Alexander Stadium.Credit:Getty

Over the next 11 days more than 5000 athletes from 72 nations will compete in 280 events across 19 sports.

Ahead of the ceremony, Charles toured of the main athletes’ village earlier meeting sportsmen and sportswomen from dozens of nations including Scotland, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Wales.

He posed for selfies and team photos with hundreds of athletes during, chatting with competitors for half an hour and joking with members of the Australian team: “all the rest are terrified of the Aussies”.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales arrive during the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.Credit:Getty

Pakistan-born Malala Yousafzai, who now lives in Britain, delivered a powerful speech, urging the teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham to celebrate friendship across borders. She was adopted by Birmingham after being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan as a teenager.

“The young athletes who will compete over the next two weeks represent millions of girls and boys across the Commonwealth,” the human and women’s rights advocate said.

“Our shared hope for the future, a future where every child can go to school, where women can fully participate in society, where families can live in peace and in dignity.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai addresses the crowd during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.Credit:AP

“Over the next few weeks as we watch incredible athletes of the Commonwealth Games, remember every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her wildest dreams.”

Steven Knight, the creator of TV hit Peaky Blinders – a crime drama based in Birmingham – was one of the masterminds behind the elaborate ceremony which is expected to be broadcast to more than 1 billion viewers around the world.

Entertainment is set to included 1980s stars Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi to saxophonist Soweto Kinch and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Spectators wear Australia flags.Credit:Getty

It is the third time since 2002 that the Games have been held in Britain, with Birmingham – Europe’s youngest city with nearly 40 per cent of its population aged 25 or under – aiming to inject new life into an old concept.

Three-time hockey gold medallist, Eddie Ockenden, and decorated six-time squash representative Rachael Grinham will lead the Australian team out onto the arena as the dual flagbearers.

Australia is represented by its largest team at an overseas Commonwealth Games – and the second largest team ever – as one of 72 nations taking part in th event. The team of more than 430 athletes comprises a record 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes and 75 para-athletes.

Fifty-nine team members were born overseas, while athletes range in age from 14-year-old diver Charli Petrov to 63-year-old Cheryl Lindfield in the para-lawn bowls.

Olympic stars Laura Kenny and Adam Peaty will carry the hopes of the home nation in cycling and swimming events, while Geraint Thomas, who finished third in the Tour de France, will ride for Wales as the home nations countries compete individually.

Jamaican sprint superstar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, fresh from her 100m world title in the United States last week, will attempt to add individual Commonwealth gold to her glittering collection.

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, who did the 400m-800m freestyle double at the Tokyo Olympics, will lead her country’s hopes in the pool.

Australia is again hoping to top the medal table after winning 80 gold medals and making 198 trips to the podium on home soil four years ago. England was distant second with 45 golds, ahead of India and Canada with 26 and 15 respectively.

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