To borrow an oft-quoted phrase, stories of the demise of the Commonwealth Video games have lengthy been vastly exaggerated.
The refrain of cynics hearth their photographs with the unerring accuracy of a boxer’s uppercut, nag away for few days after which, by the point every little thing is finished, it’s “see you in 4 years”.
As a result of right here these Video games are once more, 22 editions in and nonetheless punching above their weight in a crowded sporting calendar. Birmingham’s quirky first-night present gained’t have carried out any hurt in that scrap.
Nonetheless, this alliance of countries, solid by the pink bits of a long-yellowing world order, has most likely by no means been extra precarious. For too a few years they’ve been held collectively by one girl, now 96, and this sports activities occasion. Which appears, it have to be stated, greater than just a bit fragile.
Birmingham’s opening evening didn’t shrink back from the challenges of what can typically appear an uneasy alliance, in a intelligent, vibrant and vibrant present described as a “love letter” to the West Midlands.
As a result of with regards to inclusivity and variety, these far-flung and distant cousins, overlaying about one-third of the world’s inhabitants, are extra than simply oceans aside.
There’s numerous discuss democracy, local weather change, tolerance and inequality however there additionally appears a cussed refusal from lots of its members to do something substantial about it.
4 years in the past within the Gold Coast diving gold medallist Tom Daley used his platform to strongly condemn anti-gay legal guidelines in 37 Commonwealth nations.
Since then that quantity has grow to be 35 – painfully insufficient progress – slightly below half of the nations and territories competing marching tonight on the Alexander Stadium.
Daley – who would face the demise sentence for a way he chooses to dwell his life in one of many competing nations right here – carried the Queen’s Baton into the stadium surrounded by rainbow pleasure flags and joined by runners from Commonwealth nations the place homosexuality is banned.
Symbolism typically weighs heavy in these ceremonies however the message right here resounded loud, as native hero Denise Lewis handed the baton to Prince Charles to formally open the Video games.
“We’re one household,” insisted Commonwealth Video games Federation president Dame Louise Martin.
“Our 72 nations, all of us communicate the identical languages. We’re all on this collectively. When you go into the village and see the athletes collectively, it’s household, that’s how we communicate and the way we see one another.
“I discover it unusual. Some folks discuss colonialism, all of the completely different breakdowns. Sure, folks need independence however folks nonetheless wish to be part of the Commonwealth Video games.
“We’re distinctive as a result of we’re holding everybody collectively.”
In the identical method JFK set the bar improbably excessive for presidential inaugurations, it’s 10 years since Danny Boyle did a lot the identical for opening ceremonies.
Nonetheless, this present nonetheless had loads of moments to recollect – Prince Charles didn’t soar from a helicopter, as a substitute preferring to drive himself into the stadium, as 72 classic automobiles, a nod to Birmingham’s heritage for automotive manufacturing, shaped a union flag.
Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi did his factor, Duran Duran performed some 80s bangers and training activist Malala, an adopted Brummie, spoke with ardour about making a Commonwealth of alternatives.
However the spotlight was a 10m-high mechanical raging bull, the image of this metropolis, that billowed smoke into the evening sky as 30,000 collectively cheered alongside.
Birmingham has been dreaming of a second like this for almost 4 a long time, after they bid for the Olympics however misplaced out to Barcelona, the blazers of the Worldwide Olympic Committee somewhat short-sightedly deciding their Bullring buying centre was not so good as the precise bullring within the Catalan capital.
They solely stepped in to stage these Video games when South Africa’s Durban pulled out due to price issues. It could be the “second metropolis” however too typically it’s been seen as worse than second greatest, a spot you drove by means of to get to London, with all its confident cocky capital confidence, or Manchester, with its brooding “mad for it” swagger and sass.
However right here in Britain’s youngest and most ethnically and culturally various metropolis, they’ve heard all of the jokes earlier than, which might be why it’s residence to comedians from Jasper Carrott to Frank Skinner.
Did you hear in regards to the Brummie who fought in Vietnam and saved getting flashbacks to being in Birmingham?
However this shall be 12 days when everybody will look enviously at Birmingham – the cradle of the commercial revolution, a house of scientific endeavour, the birthplace of the balti, the place oxygen was found and the Soccer League was based.
There was a degree when three-quarters of all pens on the earth had nibs made in Birmingham, so now appears an acceptable level to quill some new historical past.
A metropolis that famously boasts it doesn’t boast, may simply have one thing to crow about within the days forward… the one-time workshop of the world now welcoming it.
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