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History, culture and pride star in Games opening ceremony

Organizers of the Commonwealth Games have promised the most inclusive games possible as the opening ceremony starts to wrap up this morning.

The ceremony in the British city of Birmingham opened with a celebration of the cultural diversity of the competing nations, with the beating of an African tribal drum setting the scene.

The event has also paid homage to all things British, including famous vehicles Land Rover, Mini and Jaguar which maneuvered into the shape of the union jack.

Prince Charles and Camilla arrived at Alexander Stadium in a vintage Aston Martin luxury sports car as part of the ceremony.

A giant animatronic bull was led into the stadium by underpaid, overworked female chain-makers of the Industrial Revolution who broke free during a wage strike in 1910.

Some of the loudest cheers went to inspirational Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who advocates for girls’ and women’s rights after surviving the Taliban, who lives in Birmingham.

“Every child deserves a future. Every child deserves the chance to pursue her wildest dreams, ”she declared in her moving speech.

The extravaganza of 2000 performers tracing the story of Birmingham’s past and present was produced by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight.

The creative display culminated in athletes from the 72 competing nations and territories entering the stadium, with the Australian team heading the parade led by Eddie Ockenden and Rachael Grinham.

Australian flag-bearers Rachel Grinham and Eddie Ockenden lead the Australian team into the stadium during the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Photo: Darren England/AAP

The Games will run for 11 days, with 6500 athletes competing in 280 medal events. For the first time, eight Para-sports have been fully integrated.

Birmingham Commonwealth Games officials said they worked hard to make the event as inclusive as possible.

Tom Daley, a champion diver, who has been stinging in his criticism of homophobia ahead of the Games, was among the athletes carrying the Queen’s Baton in its final lap.

The baton relay had traveled through the member countries — from Africa to the Americas and Asia — and includes a platinum strand in a nod to the Queen’s jubilee.

The English Olympic and Commonwealth gold medalist, who has been in a same-sex relationship, has said more than half of the member countries criminalize same-sex relations.

Speaking hours before the Birmingham opening ceremony, Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Katie Sadleir said they had worked hard to make the Birmingham Games as inclusive as possible.

A scene from the Birmingham Opening Ceremony. Photo: Darren England/AAP

“Our values ​​of humanity, equality and destiny are really, really important to us,” Sadleir said.

“We do pride ourselves as being what we think is probably the most inclusive Games, in terms of the types of programs you will see.

“We have been working with Tom and we’ve been working with a wider group.

“We set up a pride network, where we brought together athletes and CGAs (Commonwealth Games Associations) from around the world to talk about what it is we can do to create a safe environment for people to discuss and learn and respect each other.”

Sadleir added the Commonwealth Games was limited in what it could do to influence laws in member nations.

“We’re not a government agency, we’re an international sports federation, so there are limitations on what we can and cannot do,” she said.

“We cannot go and change the rules in countries, but what we can do is create opportunities for people to discuss issues in a safe environment.”

She said Pride pop-ups had been set up in the athlete villages to encourage discussion and there is a Pride House in Birmingham during the Games.

Prince Charles and Camilla arrive at the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in an Aston Martin. Photo: Darren England/AAP.

Meanwhile, Sadleir said the Birmingham Games would cope with whatever challenges are thrown at them, noting they have overcome plenty already.

Another train strike scheduled for Saturday is the latest issue for Games organizers.

“The organizing committee have dealt with Brexit, they’ve dealt with Covid, they’ve dealt with heat waves, they’ve dealt with train strikes,” she said.

“Bring it on.

Games organizers are confident Birmingham will meet, or even exceed, their ticket sale forecasts.

Birmingham 2022 chief executive Ian Reid said they were close to selling 1.3 million tickets, already bettering sales for the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

“We’re on track … to be the largest Commonwealth Games, in the UK certainly, in terms of ticket sales,” he said.

“We’ve just overtaken the last edition on the Gold Coast.

“This morning’s report had us pretty close to 1.3 million tickets sold, within the next couple of days we should have overtaken Glasgow’s ticket sales (in 2014) as well.

“So there’s a huge appetite in the city.”

– with APA

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