The Commonwealth Games have arrived! And I’m excited, even if they’re not quite as shiny and glamorous as the Olympics. Next week I’m going to be in Glasgow watching the Games (in the rain, if the weather forecast is to be believed) so I was keen to check out the opening ceremony on Wednesday and see what Scotland has in store for us. If you missed it, here’s what happened:
It all started very promisingly indeed, with an appearance on the giant video screen by Ewan McGregor (even if it was quite clear he was only after my money). Unfortunately, it was all ruined moments later by the unwelcome arrival of John Barrowman. You know, that American guy from Doctor Who. Singing a song about Scotland, in a Scottish accent. I’ve since discovered he was born in Glasgow, but at the time I spent most of the number scratching my head and wondering what he was doing there. Could they not find a ‘real’ Scottish person to sing a song about Scotland?
I was momentarily distracted from these confused musings over John Barrowman’s ancestry by some dancing Tunnocks teacakes, a field of heather and the Loch Ness monster, among many, many other Scottish things. In fact there was a bit too much to take in, particularly as I was also eating my dinner at the same time. I would like to say I’ll watch it again to get every reference, but in all honesty that’s probably not going to happen.
The song and dance number was followed by Amy Macdonald (who was good), Rod Stewart (who wasn’t), Susan Boyle (who forgot her words) and an alternative version of The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles, accompanied by a performance from the Scottish Ballet – which was lovely but I think it’s fair to say most people (including me) would have been happier with the original.
If the #openingceremony doesn’t end with The Proclaimers walking in behind a massive firework display, we’re going to be SO angry.
— innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) July 23, 2014
Then the Queen arrived, looking surprisingly cheerful, possibly because she knew she’d put the lid on the Baton too tightly, and was mischievously anticipating the mayhem to follow. Or maybe she was just glad they let her arrive in a car this time…
The team parade always has the potential to be a bit boring (lots of people from countries you’ve never visited – and possibly never even heard of – walking into a stadium can only be interesting for so long) but, in a stroke of genius, the organisers had provided each team with a Scottish terrier to walk on with. Needless to say, everyone quickly lost interest in the athletes – it was all about the dogs, which, to be fair, were ridiculously cute. I’m hoping that anyone who visits the Games gets to take one home… Wait, what do you mean, no?
Next came the charity appeal Ewan mentioned at the start – the Games have teamed up with UNICEF to raise money to support children around the Commonwealth, and asked us all to text and donate £5. Now I have to say I found this a bit unfair; it’s very hard to resist Ewan McGregor, Chris Hoy AND James McAvoy when they’re looking pleadingly at you. And wearing kilts. Well played, UNICEF. Well played.
And then it was the moment the Queen had been waiting for (possibly…) – the arrival of the Queen’s Baton, with her message inside, which has been all around the Commonwealth. After surviving this incredible journey, all that remained was for Sir Chris Hoy to hand it to Prince Imran of Malaysia (President of the Commonwealth Games Federation) so he could take off the lid, remove the message and hand it to Her Majesty. Unfortunately it didn’t go quite according to plan, and there followed an anxious few moments where we all waited, holding our collective breath, while Prince Imran and Chris Hoy struggled to get the top off and the Queen looked on. Personally, I was hoping she’d step in and show them how it’s done, but I guess queens don’t do that sort of thing.
I’m probably making it all sound a bit comical, and it was, on the whole, a very funny evening – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. But there were some nice moments too: when Chris Hoy received the Queen’s Baton from his 97-year-old great uncle, for example, and of course the minute’s silence in honour of the victims of flight MH17, which was observed throughout the stadium and across the Commonwealth. And it did seem like there was a really warm, welcoming atmosphere from the start, with the people of Glasgow clearly excited to show off their city.
So in summary – here’s what I expect to find when I arrive in Glasgow.
– Giant dancing teacakes
– My own personal Scottish terrier (with my name embroidered on its little jacket)
– Not the Proclaimers
– Ewan McGregor in a kilt
I’ll report back on how many of these are correct when I return…