The Commonwealth Games got under way in Glasgow last night and we have pulled together a list of six interesting elements and points from the opening ceremony…
1. Celtic to the fore
The opening ceremony took place at Celtic Park with a 40,000 crowd in the North, East and West stands and the whole of the South taken up by 100 metre long giant screen that served as a living backdrop to the ceremony and the arrival of the athletes. The club had to play it’s Champions’ League qualifier in Edinburgh on Tuesday night but the exposure in multiple references during commentary, and especially through the stand out lighting up of the Celtic Football Club brand on the stand will have added immeasurably to its international standing before a worldwide audience of a billion people.
2. 71 Countries
The size of the Commonwealth is surprising with 71 nations taking part including a strong team from Northern Ireland. England, Scotland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand provide the biggest teams but there is an eclectic mix of countries from around the world, some that are obvious and some less so. George Hook on Newstalk is a regular advocate of Ireland becoming a member and if we were to we would be one of 33 Republics involved. It’s possible in that we meet the criteria and if the UK were to exit the European Union it could provide an important link to our largest trading partner, but for now and until George get’s his way we will have to be satisfied cheering on the NI contingent.
3. Northern Ireland at the Games.
The flag was carried in last night by World Champion Cyclist Martyn Irvine and behind him were many familiar faces including Jason Smyth and Paddy Barnes. The team is managed by the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council with 17 affiliated sports and funding from Sport NI. The team is sponsored by Airtricity and their kit is manufactured by Kukri. The Commonwealth Game safe the only opportunity for Northern Ireland athletes to compete under a separate flag as it cannot be recognised as an independent country by the Olympic Council.
4. Putting Children First
The opening ceremony mixed elements of sport and show business as is usual but also, for the first time, aspects of a telethon. The BBC’s experience of events like Children in Need and Sport Relief was an obvious plus and inserts before the introduction of each continent had Sir Chris Hoy, James McEvoy and others filing emotional inserts from around the world on how sport can help to change lives. It concluded with an international campaign, in partnership with our friends at Unicef, to text a donation to ‘Put Children First’ and this is backed up by an online campaign that will run through the games. It will be interesting to see the level of money raised and whether it might be adopted in so upfront a fashion at similar major games.
5. Nelson Mandela remembered
The South African team carried an image of Mandela on their tracksuit last night. Scotland was the first country to recognise him while still imprisoned on Robben Island. Glasgow was the first city in the world to grant him it’s freedom and also renamed the street where the South Africa High Commission was based in honour of him.
6. Monserrat and Ireland
The tiny Caribbean island of Monserrat is represented at the games. They wear a green uniform in honour of the Irish missionaries who first discovered the island according to the BBC and is the only country in the world beyond these shores to have St Patrick’s Day as an official national holiday. Go Monserrat!
The Commonwealth Games continues for the next 11 days with extensive coverage on BBC TV, featuring athletes including Mo Farah and Usain Bolt.