Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani

London: On 28 July, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games kicked off with a show-stopping Opening Ceremony at the newly redeveloped Alexander Stadium to a live audience of over 30,000 and a global audience of over a billion.

Masterminded by renowned Artistic Director Iqbal Khan and brought to life by a group of ‘young athletes’ from around the Commonwealth the ceremony told the story of Birmingham’s embrace of generations of Commonwealth communities, emerging as the vibrant, multicultural city that it is today.

Artistic Director and acclaimed theatre producer, Iqbal Khan, said, “I am a proud son of Birmingham, born to Pakistani parents growing up in Small Heath. My parents travelled to embrace opportunities. They negotiated serious challenges here. Their strength and legacy is imprinted in me and this place. During the show, I wanted to explore themes of home and how our expressions of where we are from resonate across the Commonwealth family. Developing this theme has also allowed us to tell the story of how Birmingham has been enriched by its embrace of generations of Commonwealth communities, emerging as the vibrant, multicultural city that it is today.”

The Opening Ceremony welcomed this year’s athletes with a theatrical narrative exploring the rich and diverse history, culture and identity of Birmingham and the West Midlands. From early manufacturing and industry, through to innovation and cultural revolution, Artistic Director Iqbal Khan challenged not only conventional expressions of storytelling, but also the way Birmingham sees itself.

Brought to life by ‘Stella and the Dreamers’ a group of young athletes from around the 72 Commonwealth nations and territories the Opening Ceremony recounted the city’s past experiences and how it continues to move forward, responding to new cultural and generational influences.

Featuring over 1,500 professional and volunteer cast members, the Opening Ceremony evolved over ten moving scenes beginning with the gathering of the Commonwealth’s ‘Shards’ – symbols of hopes and dreams, illuminated by 18,480 LED lights.

In a memorable tribute to Her Majesty The Queen, Birmingham Conservatoire graduate and mezzo-soprano Samantha Oxborough performed the National Anthem, supported by the celebrated City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under acclaimed conductor Alpesh Chauhan, while musicians from The Royal Marines deliver a rousing trumpet fanfare.

Bringing together the vibrancy of Birmingham and what it stands for, musical performances included multi-Grammy winning Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), acclaimed saxophonist Soweto Kinch, RnB vocalists Indigo Marshall and Gambimi, Grammy-award winning percussionist Lekan Babalola, vocalist Ranjana Ghatak, shawm player Jude Rees, bagpiper Chris Crouch, Djembe player Abraham Paddy Tetteh, The Destroyers, Critical Mass, City of Birmingham City Orchestra, acapella group Black Voices and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Mass Choir.

Special guest appearances were also seen from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet School, as well as from Ginny Lemon, ‘Charlie Chaplin’ and a 10-metre high Bull – representative of Birmingham’s historic Bullring Market.

These rich musical moments and cultural stories set the stage for iconic British band, Duran Duran to draw the Opening Ceremony to a close, performing four much-loved tracks from their remarkable catalogue.

Throughout its history, Birmingham has been enriched by its embrace of generations of Commonwealth communities, emerging as the multicultural city that it is today. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games’ Opening Ceremony was full of moments of inspiration and wonder, celebrated together with friends from across the Commonwealth in a reminder that there is truth and delight in challenging yesterday’s version of events in order to be fully and authentically ourselves.

The Closing Ceremony will take place on Monday 8th August at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium in a further celebration of the Commonwealth Games and its 2022 host region.

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