A giant, raging, metallic bull. A fascinating, slightly blinding, light show. Genuinely funny comedians. A lot, a lot, of classic British cars. A stadium packed to the rafters. A very bizarre opening sequence. A story woven into two-and-a-half hours that prompts the uninformed to delve into the history of the city it's being conducted in. A well-loved band belting out a well-loved song in their hometown while fireworks dance overhead. Now, that's how you open a multi-sports event.
The start was strange - Dr Samuel Johnson, famous Brummie author, was depicted as some sort of giant slug? - but it wasn't long before the crowd of 30,000 at the Alexander Stadium were properly warmed up. Then came the cars, arranging themselves as the Union Jack in the middle of the ground, something not immediately apparent from the stands. The strangeness of Johnson and the Land Rovers, though, was soon replaced by the bravery of Malala Yousafzai. Now settled in Birmingham, the Pakistani welcomed everyone with the message she has been spreading around the world for almost a decade now: peace to all, equality for all. Tony Iommi, the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist (and leader), then launched into a ripping solo as the night continued to toe the fine line between pure entertainment and an earnest attempt to educate. Drag queen MC Lemon attempted the same with a depiction of the Bullring, a marketplace that has stood in the middle of the city from the 12th century.
Then came that giant bull... A spectacular looking creation, with thick smoke streaming out of its nostrils, it was 'dragged' into the stadium by massive chains, by 50-odd women. (It was mounted on a massive all-purpose truck, of course) They were supposed to represent the chain-makers of Birmingham, who went on strike demanding reasonable working conditions and a minimum wage. A historically important event that has increasing relevance in modern times. Predictably, though, the reason the chains were made in the first place -- for use in the colonial slave trade - was glossed over.
With the bull settled in the centre, and the women winning their fight for fair treatment (in the show), volunteers took over the arena. Dressed like they'd just stepped out of a set of The Peaky Blinders, they were the precursor to the actual main event of any such program - the introduction of the teams from the 72 nations and territories competing in the Games.
Australia and her 433 athletes started off the parade that ended with the English team walking out to the Queen all-time classic, 'We will rock you.' The sight, and sound, of 30,000 people clapping that iconic chorus in unison was rather brilliant. From start to finish it was happy athletes dancing along, waving their appreciation of the massive support. They came in traditional gear of different hues, from the flamboyance of Ghana to the understated elegance of India, from the casual ease of Bermuda to the athletic nonchalance of Jamaica. In between, there was a classic line from Joe Lycett, Brummie comedian, as he introduced the Asian teams - "I'm going to do something the British government doesn't always do and welcome some foreigners." Irreverent humour that had the stadium roaring in appreciation.
Moment of the ceremony from Joe Lycett pic.twitter.com/eKvzMFerzS
- Suzy Swaysland (@suzysways) July 28, 2022
There was the obligatory welcome speech, followed by the Queen's Baton relay entering its final leg inside the stadium. As the athletes passed it along, personal messages from them were read out. Tom Daley, for instance, says he stands in solidarity with those affected in the participating countries where homosexuality is still illegal. Each received a massive cheer, none more so than the one dedicated to the NHS and healthcare providers around the world.
The Games were then declared by Prince Charles, as he read out a message from his mother, the Queen of England. There was, of course, no acknowledgment of the colonial roots of these games.
That was soon forgotten, though, as Duran Duran closed out the night's festivities with some of their - and judging by the volume of the chorus - the crowd's favourites. Fireworks lit up the night sky on the final tune.
And so the Games are upon us. Here's to hoping they are as eventful, and colourful, as that opening ceremony was.