Glasgow and Scotland welcomed the world with an Opening Ceremony that featured thousands of friendly faces, a blend of bagpipes, banter and bravado and a soundtrack made for the best party in town.
Global celebrities joined thousands of local talent to bring a tantalising mix of tradition, irreverent fun and true Glaswegian hospitality to life for the world to see as the sun shone on Celtic Park on Wednesday 23 July.
The rhythm of Glasgow’s heart was beating to the drum of Rod Stewart who rocked the crowd with a rousing rendition of his hit which was given a new twist by Amy Macdonald and some unexpected backing singers – hundreds of Glaswegians.
The ceremony which featured more than 1,300 volunteer cast members, ranging from eight to 85 years old and representing every local authority in Scotland, was inspired by a desire to put people and communities at the heart of the Ceremony.
The spectacular was watched by a stadium audience of 40,000 and television viewers of an estimated 1 billion in 71 Commonwealth nations and territories.
Comedian Karen Dunbar and international singing sensation John Barrowman took a captivated audience on a whistle stop tour of traditional Scotland with its tongue very firmly in its cheek.
Stunning performances from Scottish ballet and superstar Susan Boyle combined with the talent of South African soprano Pumeza to bring a truly international edge to the ceremony.
And communities across Scotland were placed firmly centre stage joined in music and song with Nicola Benedetti accompanied by the Big Noise Orchestra and Eric Whittacre and his Virtual Youth Choir.
The athletes of the Commonwealth were invited to take a seat and join in the party by thousands of volunteers who gave the performance of their lives. Each nation and territory was welcomed into the stadium by one of 71 Glaswegians on stage to give a very personal warm welcome.
Other highlights included:
- Glasgow’s countdown. Across the city, more than 100 people from 14 communities created 14 completely different numbers, each in their own unique style and materials – from graffiti to sports balls to ceramics.
- Susan Boyle and the Red Arrows welcomed in Her Majesty The Queen.
- Scottish adventurer Mark Beaumont delivered the Queen’s Baton on the Loch Lomond Sea Plane, completing its 120,000 mile epic journey around the Commonwealth.
- Athletes from 71 teams were accompanied into the stadium by their team name bearers – an ensemble of 41 Scottish Terriers!
- A unique moment was led by UNICEF where the people came together to donate and help support the children of the Commonwealth. The moment was accompanied live by the National Youth Choir of Scotland and over 2000 children and young people from nations and territories in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Youth Choir.
- Violinist Nicola Benedetti performed accompanied by the Children of the Big Noise Orchestra as the ceremonial flag of the Commonwealth Games Federation entered the stadium.
- Billy Connolly reflected on Glasgow’s relationship to Nelson Mandela and introduced a powerful Scottish song of peace and freedom.
- The Opening Ceremony closed with personal good luck messages from the children of Glasgow schools scattered like confetti from the stadium roof and read by the athletes below.
The night was an historic one which broke the mould of previous ceremonies and for the first time included a call to action for the audience, the athletes and the Commonwealth to Put Children First.
The Queen’s Baton made its way on its final leg of the journey helped by adventurer Mark Beaumont, UNICEF friend from Jamaica, Jennica Stirling, and finally Scotland’s greatest ever Olympian Sir Chris Hoy.
Her Majesty the Queen read her message which has travelled 190,000 kms since 9 October last year, traversing the Commonwealth until finally coming home.
Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chairman of the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, said:
“This was the moment we had been waiting for since the bid was accepted in 2007. This Opening Ceremony promised many things – including showing Glasgow as a generous host – and I think we can say that we did just that. There were so many touches that just said “we are Glasgow and we are proud to welcome you in” – from the voices of 71 of my fellow Glaswegians announcing the arrival of the athletes, to the moment where we witnessed community groups performing side by side with international talent. Glasgow promised to put on a show and put on a show we did, setting the scene for the next 11 days of competition and the best Games ever.”
HRH Prince Imran, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation said:
"It was a memorable opening ceremony but the highlight for me is always the arrival of the athletes from the 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth. They will be the stars of the show over the next 11 days of outstanding competition. They all looked delighted to be here in Glasgow and excited about what lies ahead."
Michael Cavanagh, Chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland:
“What an amazing Opening Ceremony to kick-off our home Games and one which will live long in the memory of the thousands who were fortunate enough to be inside the stadium and for the millions watching from across the Commonwealth and beyond. We started this journey 12 years ago and it was a very proud and poignant moment when our flag bearer Euan Burton led Team Scotland into the stadium.
“With a welcome unlike anything they have ever experienced before in Scotland, I know the entire Team are now raring to go and showcase their talent in the sporting arena and make the nation proud.”
First Minister, Alex Salmond, said:
“Tonight’s spectacular opening ceremony has been a fitting start to the biggest cultural and sporting celebration Scotland has ever seen.
“As we all look forward to 11 days of sporting achievement and excellence, I want to wish the hundreds of athletes from the 71 participating Commonwealth nations and territories the very best of luck.
“I would also like to thank all of those who have worked so hard to bring us to this point. From those working behind the scenes, to the clyde-siders who have volunteered to help welcome the world to Glasgow, the dedication of all those involved has been remarkable.
“The Games will deliver an exciting spectacle that will thrill audiences worldwide, but even more importantly, will secure a lasting legacy that will benefit Scotland for years to come.”
“Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council said:
“The Opening Ceremony got the Games off to a sensational start and was an amazing showcase for the city. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and the huge volunteer cast did the city proud. Glasgow definitely knows how to throw a party and I think the opening ceremony provided a fantastic welcome for all the athletes who will be competing over the next 11 days as well as visitors who have flocked to the city.
“Glasgow is buzzing with excitement - there is a real carnival atmosphere. It is an honour to host the biggest sporting event Scotland has ever seen. We have been working towards this day for a very long time and we are about to be treated to a thrilling calendar of top calibre sports. Even if you don’t have a ticket for the sports, there is a huge array of entertainment on offer across the city – much of it free - and as visitors found out tonight – these really are going to be the friendly games. If the opening ceremony was anything to go by – we’ll have a ball."
David Zolkwer, Head of Ceremonies and Artistic Director said:
“It’s Glasgow’s people who made the Opening Ceremony. They gave the Ceremony its tone of voice, its humour, its warmth and they welcomed in the world. This is the compass that steered our Ceremony, the desire to be generous hosts and to be always warm, always personal – just what you’d expect from one of the friendliest cities in the world. It has been an absolute honour to work with them.”
The Opening Ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was created and produced on behalf of Glasgow 2014 by Jack Morton Worldwide who also created the Ceremonies for Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 and Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006. They are the team behind some of the most high profile and critically acclaimed ceremonies on four continents – including Athens 2004 Olympic Ceremonies and the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup Ceremonies. Jack Morton will also be creating and producing the closing ceremony on 3 August.