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Commonwealth Games begin with touching tribute to Queen at 70

The Queen at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and the Queen pictured at the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace in October last year.

The Commonwealth Games kicked off with a powerful tribute to The Queen’s 70 years of ‘passion and commitment’ towards the participating nations as her son Prince Charles opened the ceremony in her place as the monarch remains in Balmoral on her summer break.

Prince Charles and Camilla appeared at the official start of the 2022 games where the senior royals represented Her Majesty, who is patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Head of the Commonwealth.

The senior royals entered the arena from Charles’s favoured Aston Martin at the same time as 72 other red, white or blue cars with links to the Birmingham car industry, which formed a Union flag in the centre of Alexander Stadium.

Sir Lenny Henry introduced the world to ‘The Great Nation of Dudley’ as he kicked off the 2022 Commonwealth Games athletes’ parade in Birmingham.

Wearing a red suit and trainers the comedian and actor said: ‘I’m exhausted. I’ve been training for this all week. Have you had a nice time so far?

‘What an opening ceremony, I’ve had the wrong kind of mushrooms on my toast this morning. You’re all fantastic by the way… all your little faces smiling at me; black, brown, pink, white, sunburnt from last week.

Attempting a Glastonbury Festival-style call and response, he said: ‘Let me here you say woah! Yeah! Lenny get on with it because they want to start the show now!’

The ceremony closed with a bang and a short setlist from Birmingham band Duran Duran. Volunteers and athletes gathered in front of the band as the stands at the Alexander Stadium were lit up with coloured flashing lights.

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The 96-year-old Queen, who has spent the last week at her Scottish residence, would have had to travel down to Birmingham for the Highlands to make the games – a situation likely considered too taxing for her at present.

The decision to miss out this year will likely strike a personal blow to the long-reigning monarch, who has always held the Commonwealth Games close to her heart and was present the last time they were held in the UK in 2014.

Her Majesty did launch the Commonwealth Games baton relay at Buckingham Palace in October, placing a secret message inside it that won’t be read out until the Games are underway.

While the Queen has missed only a handful of Commonwealth events over the last seven decades, she has been beset with ‘mobility issues’ and unable to appear at some events in any official capacity in recent months.

However she did attend her Platinum Jubilee celebrations at the beginning of June and as recently as this week was still performing her royal duties despite the sweltering heatwave that gripped the country.

Excitement surrounding the Queen’s secret message, hidden inside a baton used in the traditional baton relay, built throughout Thursday evening.

The official Commonwealth Sports Twitter account tweeted: ‘The wait is almost over. We finally get to hear Her Majesty’s Commonwealth Games message at tonight’s opening ceremony following it’s 90,000 mile journey around the Commonwealth. Don’t miss it!’

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall will open the games in her place for the third time in Birmingham later this evening, aided by The Earl and Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward is Vice-Patron of the CGF.

Prince Charles previously opened the games in Her Majesty’s place when they were held in India in 2010 and Australia in 2018. Her Majesty previously opened the games in Canada (1978 and 1994), Scotland (1986 and 2014), England (2002) and Australia (2006).

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Her late husband Prince Philip was a firm believer in the games, and opened them in Australia (1962 and 1982), Jamaica (1966), New Zealand (1974), Scotland (1970) and Wales (1958). The Alexander Stadium ceremony is expected to be watched by around 1billion people worldwide.

This year’s event are set to see a bumper turnout from members of the Royal Family as they are being held on home ground for the first time since 2014 – and a decade on from the London Olympics.

30,000 fans packed into the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Thursday to catch a glimpse of the Royals and watch the opening ceremony get underway.

Headlined by the iconic Duran Duran, the ceremony will also see Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath take to the stage, alongside local rising stars Indigo Marshall and Gambimi.

More than 700 people from 15 musical groups from across the West Midlands will be performing tonight and the national anthem will be sung by Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Samantha Oxborough.

The London Olympics’ opening ceremony was well received and highly praised around the world, but the theatre director Iqbal Khan who created Birmingham’s show believes he has created an event just as entertaining.

‘I don’t feel in the shadow of the Olympics at all. I feel like we have a comparable and massively entertaining, moving, challenging show to share with the world,’ he said.

‘The Olympics was extraordinary for this country, but we refuse to be overwhelmed by that. We take that as inspiration.’

It comes as a heart-warming video celebrating the best of Birmingham was released today as excitement builds for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games tonight – after outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson insisted they are worth the £778 million taxpayer investment, even as the country faces a cost-of-living crisis and soaring inflation.

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The two-minute clip features a host of icons from the West Midlands city, including comedian Lenny Henry, actress Julie Walters and Good Morning Britain’s Alison Hammond, as they describe Brum as the ‘beating heart of England’.

The fictional Thomas Shelby from Peaky Blinders, played by actor Cillian Murphy, also makes an appearance to declare: ‘This is our city’, before the video ends with him saying: ‘We’ll raise the roof!’, in a clip taken from the hit TV series.

The ceremony is being masterminded by Steven Knight, the creator of Birmingham-based Peaky Blinders. As the host nation, Team England will be the last country to walk out at the ‘Parade of Nations’ at tonight’s ceremony. The first will be Australia, after the last Games were held in the Gold Coast in 2018.

The Aussies topped the medal table four years ago, winning 198 in total – 80 of which were gold. England finished second with 45 golds (136 in total), ahead of India in third with 26 golds (66 in total).

Wales (10 golds) finished seventh, Scotland (nine golds) were in eighth and Northern Ireland (one gold) placed 20th.

The Birmingham Games promises a jam-packed lineup, with plenty of new sports and disciplines added into the mix. Women’s cricket is a new addition to the schedule, alongside 3×3 basketball and mixed synchronised diving.

2022 marks the third time England will play host to the event after London in 1934 and Manchester in 2002.

A total of 15 venues across the West Midlands have been selected to hold different sporting events, including the famous NEC Arena in Birmingham city centre and Coventry Stadium – home to the Wasps rugby team and Coventry City FC.

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