Australia

Dazzling opening ceremony kicks off Commonwealth Games

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Migaloo the white whale and hurdling superstar Sally Pearson were among the star turns at the opening ceremony for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Migaloo the white whale was the star of the show as the 21st Commonwealth Games kicked off with an opening ceremony inspired by the laidback beach lifestyle of the host city.

Australia's indigenous culture - which dates back at least 65,000 years - was also a key component of Wednesday night's extravaganza at Carrara Stadium.

A who's who of Australian sport - Susie O'Neill, Brad McGee, Kurt Fearnley, Liz Ellis and Brent Livermore - all took a turn at carrying the Queen's Baton around the arena - before handing it over to Sally Pearson.

The Gold Coast erupted with colour.
The Gold Coast erupted with colour.
Getty

As a proud Gold Coast local and the biggest Australian star in the Games' premier sport, Pearson was the ideal choice to complete the baton relay, just as Cathy Freeman had been the perfect fit to light the cauldron at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

But the defining image of the ceremony is likely to be that of Migaloo, the white humpback whale whose migration up the east coast of Australia is eagerly awaited every year.

Mark Knowles, flag bearer of Australia arrives with the Australia team.
Mark Knowles, flag bearer of Australia arrives with the Australia team.
Getty

A huge inflatable whale floated above the stadium as the ceremony drew towards a close.

Call it the Matilda moment of 2018 - much as the opening to the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane is still best remembered for the appearance of a giant winking kangaroo.

Having the 71 competing nations called into the arena on Wednesday night from a lifeguard tower was a great touch, as were the nippers carrying rescue boards emblazoned with country names.

The first country into the stadium for the Parade of Nations was Scotland - complete with bright blue kilts.

Australia's Indigenous culture was a key component of the opening ceremony.
Australia's Indigenous culture was a key component of the opening ceremony.
Getty

And the last - as is traditional - was the host nation, who entered the arena to a tumultuous ovation and the strains of a medley of Australian rock classics Evie, Down Under, Playing to Win and Need You Tonight.

"It is electric," said teenaged sprint sensation Riley Day from the nearby Queensland town of Beaudesert.

"I would do it a thousand times more. It's crazy."

A heavy shower just minutes before the start of the ceremony didn't seem to bother the crowd or the stars of the show.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
AAP

Chrstine Anu sang, as did Ricki-Lee Coulter, Delta Goodrem and Torres Strait rapper Mau Power.

The Prince of Wales officially declared the Games open, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall.

"It is fitting that the Commonwealth Games is known as 'the Friendly Games', as one of the world's friendliest countries has invited us into their homes for this momentous event," said Prince Charles.

" ... sport can be a great force for good which can help create harmony between communities.

"In even the most trying of times it unites us in the spirit of friendship and competition."

Ricki-Lee Coulter performs.
Ricki-Lee Coulter performs.
Getty

But not everything ran perfectly.

Many ticketholders struggled to make it to the stadium in time for the start of the ceremony after they were stranded for up to two hours at a key Gold Coast bus interchange.

And several indigenous protesters were arrested as they attempted to force their way into Carrara Stadium and disrupt the event.

They were part of a group, numbering about 100, who were reportedly chanting "no justice, no games".

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