Commonwealth Games: Gold Coast event starts with colourful opening ceremony

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The 21st Commonwealth Games are officially under way after a spectacular opening ceremony on the Gold Coast.

More than 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories will be competing for 275 gold medals over the 11 days of competition.

A crowd of 35,000 packed into the Carrara Stadium, normally the home of Australian Rules football side Gold Coast Suns.

A heavy downpour of rain greeted the start of proceedings but that failed to dampen spirits. The crowd and athletes were then treated to a ceremony showcasing music and dance drawing on Australia’s history and traditions.

The Games were officially declared open by the Prince of Wales, representing the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth.

However, there were protests outside the stadium by indigenous rights activists who earlier disrupted the Queen’s baton relay as it made its way to the stadium.

The first gold medal of the Games will be awarded in women’s triathlon on Thursday.

Australian delegation receives noisy welcome

After the delegations were led out in Glasgow four years ago by Scottie dogs, this time they were led by a ‘Nipper’ – a young Australian surf lifesaver aged between 5 and 14 years old – while members of Surf Life Saving Queensland marshalled the teams around the stadium.

England delegation are in the stadium
The England delegation will be hoping for plenty of medal success

Scotland – the first team out into the stadium – were led by athlete Eilidh Doyle, while triathlete Alistair Brownlee, who will be defending his men’s title on Thursday, was at the head of the English team.

Prince of Wales hails the ‘Friendly Games’

After the baton made its way around the stadium via some iconic Australian sportspeople, including hurdler Sally Pearson, it was presented to the Prince of Wales.

Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales delivers his speech at the opening ceremony

Prince Charles, who also opened the 2010 Games in Delhi, said he and the Duchess of Cornwall were delighted to be in attendance and read a message from the Queen.

“The ancient stories of the Aboriginals remind us that even though we are half a world away, we are connected and the Games shows the potential to connect,” she said.

“I continue to be inspired by all those taking part and I send my warm wishes to every individual and team.”

Later a giant replica of Migaloo, the white humpback whale which has become a symbol of environmental matters in Australia, floated gently into the stadium before the ceremony finished in a blaze of fireworks.

Swimmer Jazz Carlin and netballer Caroline O’Hanlon carried the flags for Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the record 473-strong Australian team, headed by hockey player Mark Knowles.

In Glasgow, England dislodged Australia from the top of the medal table for the first time since 1986 – winning nine more golds – but Australia are keen to regain top spot on home soil.

The athletes were welcomed to the Gold Coast by Commonwealth Games chairman Peter Beattie and president of the Commonwealth Games Federation Louise Martin with Australian lawn bowler Karen Murphy, coach of the Australia netball team Lisa Alexander and technical official Des Johnston taking the Games oath on behalf of the athletes, coaches and officials.

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