The 2022 Commonwealth Games is underway amidst an otherworldly display of music and dance.
Featuring 4 metre-high puppets of Edward Elgar and his pioneering Birmingham contemporaries, Duran Duran, a 10 metre-tall mechanical bull and Sir Lenny Henry joking about magic mushrooms, Friday morning’s opening ceremony had everything.
Here are five of the key moments.
Powerful words from Malala
Now a Birmingham native, Malala Yousafzai took to the stage in the centre of Alexander Stadium during the ceremony to introduce the song Hear My Voice and welcome friends from far and wide.
The youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize narrated a presentation about the importance of education, appearing in the centre of the stadium to cheers and applause.
“Tonight, teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham to celebrate friendship across borders,” the 25-year-old activist told the crowd.
“The young athletes who will compete over the next two weeks represent millions of girls and boys across the Commonwealth. 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.
“As we watch the incredible athletes of the Commonwealth Games, remember that every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential and pursue their wildest dreams.”
The massive mechanical bull
As is the case for most opening ceremonies, the spectacle ranged from the gloriously dramatic to the wildly obscure.
Following an oom-pah-style chorus led by drag queen Ginny Lemon that featured 4 metre-tall figures from Birmingham’s industrial past, the jovial ceremony took a darker turn.
Amidst a backdrop of ominous music, a 10 metre-tall bull — designed to symbolise the relentless drive of industry and the damage it can do — was dragged into the arena by impoverished, female Industrial Revolution-era chain-makers.
Some of the chains made by the workers were used in the slave trade, an abstract nod to the dire impact the Commonwealth had on the world through the era of Britain’s Victorian expansion.
The darker phase of the ceremony was the only counterpoint to an otherwise cheery celebration of what makes Birmingham unique, but an important one.
The bull took five months to build and is made from remnants of machinery used across the Midlands and West Country and remained in the area, lending Duran Duran’s set an oddly Pink Floyd-esque feel.
Queen’s Baton shines spotlight on inclusivity, mental health and more
The Queen’s Baton has been on an around-the-world journey for months, and has finally reached its destination.
It’s been passed from hand to hand before travelling through Alexander Stadium with the help of six final baton bearers — all accomplished local Commonwealth Games athletes highlighting a cause close to their hearts.
Decorated diver Tom Daley brought the baton into the stadium, running to raise awareness for LGBTQI+ rights.
It was then passed to hockey player Alex Danson, who is pushing for a cure for cancer, table tennis player and medical doctor Kim Daybell who ran in the name of the NHS and boxer Galal Yafai who recently launched a foundation to support youth in need in his hometown of Birmingham.
Multi-gold medal-winning gymnast Max Whitlock then took the baton up the stadium steps, choosing to shine a light on mental health awareness, before handing it to Commonwealth Games England president Denise Lewis.
She handed it to Dame Louise Martin, who removed the Queen’s message which was read out by her son Prince Charles.