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Commonwealth Games open up in style

IAN ANDERSON IN GLASGOW
Last updated 10:23 24/07/2014
Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Team New Zealand march in led by Valerie Adams.
ROCKIN: World famous singer Rod Stewart gets the crowd pumping at the opening ceremony in Glasgow.
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax NZ
ROCKIN: World famous singer Rod Stewart gets the crowd pumping at the opening ceremony in Glasgow.

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It was a night to stow aside cynicism.

The 20th Commonwealth Games opened in Glasgow tonight (local time) amid a blaze of colour, noise, dance and joy.

Valerie Adams joined the party, waving the New Zealand flag with the kind of gusto associated with the world's most dominant female athlete as the Kiwi team marched in to a thunderous reception.

It mattered little that part of Australia's walk-in music was Lorde's ''Royals'', or that the lid to the Queen's Baton took some wrangling to remove - there was simply too much to enjoy.

It was a raucous, joyous celebration of all things Scottish - Robert Burns, the Clyde river, the Loch Ness Monster - and why not? Tonight was Glasgow's night after seven years of waiting.

''Someone said 'Let's just imagine we're inviting a few friends round to our house for a party'. So that's exactly what we've done,'' said Head of Ceremonies and Artistic Director David Zolkwer prior to commencement.

The ceremony came near the tail-end of a Glasgow day that rose to the occasion in a climatic tribute - blue sky, a warming sun that dropped low to shine on the packed stands of the 40,00-capacity Celtic Park after punters paid between £20 and £250 for tickets.

Every announcement, every entry, every performer was met by a deafening roar that could have rivalled a Celtic goal against Rangers.

They clapped and swung to ''Rhythm of my Heart'' when Amy Macdonald opened with it, and a rapturous ovation greeted Rod Stewart when he took over the microphone.

The host nation may be voting on independence in six weeks, but there was no split opinion when Queen Elizabeth II made her entrance by car at a pace distinctly more sedate than the Red Arrows that blasted overhead at the same time.

The Queen's Baton Relay came to a conclusion following its 190,00km journey, flown in on the Loch Lomond Sea Plane before India became the first of 71 nations attending the Games to enter the stadium for the march-past.

Each team - from the those with a handful of athletes like the Maldives, to the vast collection of competitors from England and Australia - were fronted by a Scottish Terrier bearing the country's name.

New Zealand was the 14th nation to come down the tunnel, led by flagbearer Adams. Over 200 team members marched, 135 of them athletes, while those Kiwi competing the following morning followed the live broadcast from the Athletes Village.

The Malaysian team wore black armbands following the tragedy of Flight MH17 in a rare sombre note, but any fears the English team may be booed were quickly allayed by a near-standing ovation to the neighbours from the south.

Naturally, the biggest reception was for the host country - an ear-splitting roar greeted and accompanied them around the pitch.

The occasion also saw Unicef ambassadors - including Ewan McGregor, Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Alex Ferguson - interspersed the production on the 96.6m wide, 10m high, 301 tonne big screen - with an appeal for the ''Put Children First'' fund.

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The Commonwealth Games flag was accompanied in by violinist Nicola Bendetti to the strains of 'The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond' before legendary Scottish comedian Billy Connolly came in via video.

Following a speech from Malaysia's HRH Prince Imran - the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation - the Queen received the baton and declared the Games open.

So - let the Games begin.

- Stuff

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