Ceremony helps cleanse sporting soul

  • Kyle Webb, left, the Bermuda sprinter, and Katura Horton-Perinchief, the Bermuda chef de mission, pose for a photograph during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia (Photograph by Stephen Wright )

The Commonwealth Games — a celebration of sport and camaraderie — could not have come soon enough for Australia.

In the wake of the recent crimes committed against cricket, today’s opening ceremony felt more like a cleansing of a country’s sporting soul.

Even the newspaper column inches devoted to the disgraced trio involved in the ball-tampering scandal have been slowly swallowed up by inspirational tales of those athletes tasked with restoring Australian pride.

After all, great sporting moments are expressions of the national spirit in this part of the world.

So it was hardly surprising that the names of Smith, Warner and Bancroft were absent from the guest list to the biggest party in Queensland’s history.

That is not to say the Gold Coast Games have been absent of controversy.

The snubbing of home-town hero Sally Pearson as flag bearer, Channel Nine being temporarily stripped of broadcasting rights and an investigation into syringes found in the Athletes’ Village have seen to that.

Even so, the mood on the Gold Coast has been building to a crescendo and came to its climax at Carrara Stadium in front of 35,000 cheering Aussies, not to mention the estimated 1.5 billion worldwide.

To say those watching were treated to a quintessential Australian experience would be an understatement.

The elaborate series of sets depicting all things Down Under, including an actual Gold Coast lifeguard tower and surf boat, were a sure-fire sign of things to come.

Surfer dudes and dudettes wearing board shorts and bikinis were a not-too-subtle nod to the beach culture synonymous with the seaside city, while a didgeridoo orchestra, Aboriginal ballet dancers, and a traditional smoking ceremony displayed a strong indigenous flavour.

Even the three-hour extravaganza could not have felt more Australian had Crocodile Dundee shown up whistling Waltzing Matilda while cracking a tinny.

The all-singing, all-dancing affair then gave prominence to the evening’s prime purpose, the Parade of Nations, as camera flashes continued to flicker and illuminate the sea of yellow and green-clad spectators filling the stadium’s aisles.

In keeping with the tone of the rest of the rain-scattered evening, Bermuda’s athletes, along with the other 70 nations, were led out by a Nipper carrying a rescue board.

By the time Tyler Smith, the island’s flag bearer, took centre stage the Queensland Symphony Orchestra were busy working their way through a melody of Australian pop classics, with INXS’s Need You Tonight segueing seamlessly into Olivia Newton-John’s Physical.

Missing from Bermuda’s contingent were Flora Duffy and Erica Hawley who will be getting physical and then some in the women’s triathlon, which gets under way later today.

For Duffy, it will be a chance to win the first of the 275 gold medals up for grabs. Let the Games begin!