Prince Charles meets Team Gibraltar as Birmingham Commonwealth Games open
Prince Charles posed for selfies and team photos with hundreds of athletes, including members of Team Gibraltar, ahead of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on Thursday.
The Games opened with the promise to be the biggest sporting festival in the UK since the London Olympics a decade ago.
The event opened in Birmingham at the Alexander Stadium – where the Prince of Wales was in attendance, representing the Queen.
The Prince of Wales said the Commonwealth Games “reminds us of our connection with one another… as a family of nations” as he officially opened the event on behalf of the Queen.
Fireworks, a music set from the city’s own Duran Duran and a 10-metre high bull greeted a sell-out crowd at the Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr.
Charles said Birmingham is “symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth” as part of his short speech at the ceremony, which was put together by renowned artistic director Iqbal Khan.
Charles was not the only high profile speaker at the event, as activist Malala Yousafzai spoke of how “every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential and pursue their wildest dreams”.
In a short but powerful message, the activist and author said competitors represented millions of children and “our shared hope for the future”.
“Tonight, teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham to celebrate friendship across borders,” she said.
“The young athletes who will compete over the next few weeks represent millions of girls and boys across the Commonwealth – our shared hope for the future. A future where every child can go to school, where women are free to participate in society, where families can live in peace and in dignity.
“Over the next two weeks when we watch the incredible athletes of the Commonwealth Games, remember that every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her wildest dreams.”
Over the next 11 days, more than 5,000 athletes from 72 nations will compete in 280 events across 19 sports.
Some 23 athletes from Gibraltar will compete in the 22nd Commonwealth Games including in cycling, swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, athletics, squash and weightlifting.
Beforehand, Charles toured the main athletes’ village meeting sportsmen and sportswomen from dozens of nations, including Gibraltar.
Earlier, Boris Johnson said he was “supremely confident” there would be a legacy from the £778 million of UK taxpayers’ money which has gone into the games – which are being held as the country faces a cost-of-living crisis.
The outgoing Prime Minister told the Commonwealth Business Forum in the West Midlands city: “You can feel the excitement here in this mighty city of Birmingham because the athletes are already here in their thousands, from 56 countries, 72 nations and territories around the world.”
He added: “Already you can hear the voices on some parts of the media of those who doubt that the whole thing will be worth it.”
“And people say, can we afford it? Should we have done it with the pressure on the cost of living? Will there be a legacy from the £778 million of taxpayers’ money that has gone into these Games?”
“And so right now, I want you to know I am here to tell you that I am supremely confident that the answer to that question is yes. A thousand times, yes. I say so because I remember, almost exactly 10 years ago, an identical moment of nerves just before the beginning of the London 2012 Games.”
Mr Johnson, who was London mayor at the time of the 2012 Summer Olympics, insisted they “continue even to this day to deliver thousands of jobs, growth, regeneration” in the capital.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries also defended the expense of hosting the event, which had a £778 million budget funded by the Government and Birmingham City Council.
Ms Dorries rejected claims it was a “vanity project” and stressed the importance of the Commonwealth as a trading and geopolitical bloc.
Birmingham was awarded the Games after scheduled host Durban in South Africa pulled out over financial problems.
Ms Dorries told Sky News: “It’s not a vanity project… This is hugely important.”
“Are you saying we shouldn’t have the Commonwealth Games? I think we are proud and honoured to have picked up the baton when it was dropped elsewhere in the world and to continue to run these Commonwealth Games in the amazing way that we have done.”
“Everybody here – thousands of people – are extremely proud, including the volunteers behind me right now, extremely proud of what we’re doing.”
In his speech, the Prime Minister joked the “whole EU” should become a Commonwealth member.
“I think we have consistently beaten France. Every time we have consistently beaten Germany and more importantly, still, we have beaten Australia,” he said.
“And though France and Germany are not members of the Commonwealth, or not yet. Why not? Get them in. Get the whole EU in. A logical solution.”
Ms Dorries also told LBC: “The city is buzzing, it’s alive. It reminds me of the 2012 Olympics. The feeling in Birmingham and the West Midlands is incredibly upbeat and positive.”
She added: “I think the Commonwealth today is more important than ever, particularly given what’s happening in Ukraine and with Russia and also with China.”