Moving, magnificent and a call to alms

Mr Chris Madden posing in his office
Leader of the Griffith University delegation in Glasgow, Mr Chris Madden was moved by the Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games

by Mr Chris Madden, leader of the Griffith University delegation at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

We knew it was going to be different when an overhead shot of the modified and magnificent 1888 Celtic Stadium in Glasgow’s East End only had people on three sides.

The remaining side was filled with the largest screen ever seen in the United Kingdom. It was 100 metres long and five storeys high.

The Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games also started very differently.

Movie star, Glaswegian and UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor opened proceedings by explaining how the ceremony was going to help children. The Opening Ceremony was going to be a UNICEF fundraiser.

The next five minutes was, I suspect, a mystery to anyone but a Glaswegian or possibly a Scot. It was joyous mayhem and completely baffling.

However, tartan pride soon emerged in all its glory and it was a magnificent spectacle. The people of Glasgow sang, danced and showed their spirit, all led by Amy Macdonald who is surely to become a superstar.

Somehow they captured the grit of the Glaswegians, the pride and togetherness in George Square, the centre of this historic city. And there was something else too.

After the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines disaster in Ukraine, for the first time in days I began to feel better and I doubt I was alone. Glasgow’s soul was healing and uplifting.

The audience was treated to pure Scottish charm. When Rod Stewart sang his 1991 hit song Rhythm of My Heart, its haunting melody conveyed the spirit of recent times.

Then came the march past and, while the sight of Malaysia’s flag at half-mast had many in tears, the perky and occasionally pesky Scottish terriers were the perfect foil.

The most respected woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth II, presided over proceedings with her customary calm dignity and one formed a sense that, thanks simply to her presence, the No vote may prevail at September’s Scottish independence referendum.

We were then treated to a completely new concept for Games opening ceremonies as Scottish stars highlighted countries in need and reminded us that as much as competition is important, the lives and safety of children around the world deserve our attention and action.

A focus on vulnerable children, on putting children’s safety first and fundraising via mobile platforms ensured an Opening Ceremony that was truly memorable and very different.

It really was an emotional rollercoaster. One of the world’s greatest songs, The Bonny Banks O’ Loch Lomond,was sung by Rod Stewart and the famous lyric of “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road” reminded us we have a choice.

Billy Connolly, beloved the world over and a proud Glaswegian, reminded us that Glasgow led the world in recognising Nelson Mandela and calling for his release from prison in South Africa.

Twelve years later, when that day finally arrived, one of the first things Mandela did was to thank Glasgow, to visit the street named after him and to praise Glaswegians for their humanity, their vision and their compassion.

The haunting melody of Freedom Come-All-Yewas mesmerising. Surely one of the saddest songs ever written, it was tragically relevant on this night, particularly to Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada, each country represented by the best of its youth in the march past.

The ceremony for the raising of the Commonwealth flag, proudly carried by a group of sporting champions, symbolised rising hope and the conviction that together we will triumph.

I’m sure all Australia loved Ian Thorpe representing us. He is a great Australian, a tough, troubled, magnificent young man and a superb choice by the Games Organising Committee.

This 2014 Commonwealth Games ceremony was a rare night. Even the International Space Station circling 420 kilometres above Earth played a role.

The rhythm of my heart was touched by this different, challenging and truly Scottish ceremony held in arguably its greatest city.

What a city. What a country. What a people.

The Commonwealth is alive.