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Five key moments from Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

The 2022 Commonwealth Games is underground 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

Malala Yousafzai now calls Birmingham home.(Getty Images: Elsa)

Now a Birmingham native, Malala Yousafzai took to the stage in the center 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 center 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

The mechanical bull
The bull stole the show at the Alexander Stadium.(Getty Images: Marc Atkins)

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 meter-tall bull — designed to symbolize 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

Tom Daley carries a silver baton
Tom Daley is taking a year off from competition, but still played a roll in Birmingham.(Getty Images: Elsa)

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 traveling 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.

Lenny Kravitz and other celebrity cameos

Prince Charles gets out of a blue Aston Martin
Rocking up in a blue Aston Martin is quite rock and roll.(Getty Images: Elsa)

Of course, the stars of the show at any sporting event are the athletes, but that didn’t mean that some other stars could not take a little bit of the limelight before the sporting action got underway.

Prince Charles’s arrival in the stadium at the wheel of a blue Aston Martin was pretty rockstar, but that paled in comparison to Tony Iommi’s guitar solo.

For those not in the know, Iommi is the co-founder of Black Sabbath, which formed in the city in 1968. Rock on.

Sir Lenny Henry’s take on the abstract theater of the ceremony was to joke that he’d eaten the wrong mushrooms for breakfast as he, with four others — including the fabulously attired Joe Lycett — introduced the athletes march, at which point we had our biggest cameo of the day

Joe Lycett wears a pink tracksuit
Comedian Joe Lycett hit the brief.(Getty Images: Marc Atkins)

A number of celebrities sent good luck messages to athletes from their country via video — shout out to Adam Hills for doing Australia’s.

But it was the Bahamas star who stole the show: Lenny Kravitz.

“All the people at the Games in Birmingham, you are letting love rule tonight,” he said.

“To all the athletes representing the Bahamas, I wish you the best of luck for the Games.

“It’s time for you to shine on the biggest stage and show the world how we do it. Peace.”

Australia marching in

Australia marches behind a woman who is holding up a banner saying Australia
Australia led the other nations out into the Alexander Stadium.(Getty Images: David Ramos)

This was the moment we were all waiting for — to see our Australians enter Alexander Stadium, waving the flag.

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