Spectacular Opening Gala Changes Face Of Commonwealth Games
Flotillas of surfboats, giant water creatures, a flying tram, a spectacular sound and light show, a live duck and Delta Goodrem were just some of the highlights of the $50 million Ceremony that for the first time extended the Ceremony beyond the stadium walls, across the city.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially declared the Games open and congratulated all those involved for their dedication to staging the event.
“I am glad to have this opportunity to offer my best wishes to every athlete and official taking part in these traditionally ‘friendly’ Games. I congratulate everyone who has worked tirelessly to organise this great sporting celebration, which I hope will entertain hundreds of millions of people around the world, “ Her Majesty said.
Prime Minister John Howard said the Ceremony was a fitting way to welcome athletes and visitors to the Games.
“Tonight’s Opening Ceremony reflected the dedication of the organisers, creative team, crew and volunteers,” the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, said.
"I congratulate all those involved with the Opening Ceremony.’’
The Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks said the ceremony was a proud display of all of the things that made Melbourne and Victoria so great.
“The Ceremony embodied the most iconic and best loved parts of our City and State. It makes me proud to know that nearly 1.5 billion people across the globe have just tuned into this slice of our culture, heritage and history – what a way to welcome the world,’ Mr Bracks said.
Commonwealth Games Federation President, Mike Fennell, said the Ceremony was an outstanding precursor to a great Games.
“In my experience this is the best planning and preparation of any Games that I have been involved in, and I’m not just talking about Commonwealth Games”, he said.
Melbourne 2006 Chairman Ron Walker said the event was the fruition of an incredible vision.
“Six years ago we decided to stage an Opening Ceremony that would stun the world. Tonight we have achieved this vision and set a new benchmark in international events,” Mr Walker said.
The Ceremony began at 8.36pm with a spectacular sound and light show along the Yarra River. Giant sea creatures, each representing a nation of the Commonwealth formed an illuminated spine down the river, complete with plumes of water, lights and especially composed music.
Lord Mayor of Melbourne John So said he could not imagine a more spectacular way to herald the start of our city’s biggest event:
“The opening ceremony was truly breathtaking for everyone who saw it, especially for the thousands who watched from the banks of the Yarra River. The Games are a once in a lifetime experience and will be long remembered by those who witness the excitement unfolding at sports venues and live sites”, said the Lord Mayor.
The final moments leading up to the Opening Ceremony were marked by 18 beats accompanied by images from all 18 Commonwealth Games onto the main stage surface and the stadium video screens.
Each image was accompanied by the name of the host city superimposed on the image, as the audience called out each city name.
The Ceremony into the stadium commenced with a flotilla of 18 surfboats, each flying a flag of the Commonwealth borne by an accomplished Victorian sportswoman.
Within minutes, one of Melbourne’s best loved icons, a W-Class tram, complete with wings, drifted over the roof of the MCG and landing on a Melways map of Melbourne.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II entered the Stadium to cheers from the crowd and was greeted by Mr Howard, Mr Bracks, Mr Walker, Mr Fennell and His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Vice Patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
First the first time in Games history, athletes entered the stadium by regions of the Commonwealth, all set to the strains of one of Melbourne’s quintessential groups, the Cat Empire.
The Queen was also treated to special birthday treat ahead of her 80th birthday on 21 April. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa led the audience in a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Her Majesty.
Harry White, the Games Goodwill Partner Plan’s Youth Ambassador also treated the Queen to a short speech in her honour.
After travelling 180,000km across 71 nations, the Baton made its final journey to the MCG with the help of some of Australia’s best loved sporting legends – Cathy Freeman, Ron Clarke, Marjorie Jackson and John Landy.
Set to music composed by Richard Mills, the Baton made its final passage to the Games and finally carried to the Queen by the police motorcycle team who have been accompanying the baton around Australia.
One of Melbourne’s most treasured performers, Delta Goodrem finished the evening proceedings by performing a specially penned song for the Games.
‘Together We Are One’ was written by Ms Goodrem with Guy Chambers and her partner, Brian McFadden.
Goodrem said her song was a tribute to the work of the thousands of people it took to put on the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
“Having been involved in the Opening Ceremony, I’ve seen a slice of what it takes to put an event like this on – from the people backstage, to volunteers, staff, officials and, of course, the athletes.
The Opening Ceremony was watched by more than 100,000 people along the banks of the Yarra River and in Live Sites. An estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide also tuned in to the start of the event.
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