Fireworks followed rain on Thursday as the 21st Commonwealth Games opened on the Gold Coast, Australia, complete with a beach party featuring dancing lifeguards and a floating white whale and a musical soundtrack that included a didgeridoo maestro and aboriginal rapper.
Fortunately for the 35,000 spectators at Carrara Stadium, including Prince Charles and wife Camilla, heavy rain stopped a few minutes after the opening ceremony began. The games draw on 71 nations and territories.
The Queen's Baton, the Commonwealth Games' version of the Olympic flame, came into the stadium with eight-time Olympic and 15 Commonwealth Games swim medalist Susie O'Neill, nicknamed Madame Butterfly.
She handed it off to a series of Australian sports stars, from netball to field hockey, with former Olympic sprint champion Sally Pearson the final recipient. Scotland's Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation and a former swim competitor in Perth at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, dug out the message from within to end a 388-day journey that took the baton around the globe to every Commonwealth nation and territory.
Forrest talked up the games, calling the Commonwealth a vast global family of 2.4 billion people more relevant than ever before. She also cited the games' medal gender equality, its reconciliation action plan recognizing the first nations of the entire Commonwealth, and its expanded para-sports program.
Prince Charles then did the honors. It now gives me the greatest pleasure to declare the 21st Commonwealth Games open, he said. Aussie pop star Delta Goodrem followed, singing Welcome to Earth.
The ceremony started with a rapid-fire countdown starting 65,000 years ago before quickly telling the story of Australia's creation as the earth shifted. Artistic director David Zolkwer used the stadium infield like a high-tech whiteboard, turning it into the galaxy and then a beach with waves coming in.
William Barton dazzled with the didgeridoo while Torres Strait rapper Mau Power and singer Christine Anu delivered a powerful version of My Island Home.
It was one big party for the 6,600 athletes and officials, many of which opted for colorful beach attire.
The competing nations were introduced by members of City of Gold Cast Lifeguards, located in a lifeguard tower in the stadium. Each team was preceded by a so-called Nipper, part of a junior lifeguard program aged five to 14, complete with a surf board emblazoned with the country's name.
The Parade of Nations spanned the generations. Northern Ireland features David Calvert, a 67-year-old shooter at his 11th Commonwealth Games. The Wales team includes 11-year-old table tennis prodigy Anna Hursey.
After the athletes entered, Peter Beattie, chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation, took the podium.
Australians are warm and fun-loving people, We judge others by what's in their hearts, not where they come from, said the former Queensland premier. Because in the end we all share the same place.
These games allow us to issue an invitation to These games allow us to issue an invitation to the world to visit and experience true hospitality. Because we are the friendliest people on this planet ... Enjoy your time with us in Queensland. Beautiful one day, perfect the next.”
Scotland, as the host of the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, had the first athletes enter the stadium in the Parade of Nations. Host Australia came last. The games end April 15.