Pakistan contingent at the opening ceremony of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 on Thursday night. Fireworks explode above the Alexander Stadium during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games on Thursday night. BIRMINGHAM: The 22nd edition of the Commonwealth Games kicked off with a mesmerising and colourful opening ceremony at the newly redeveloped Alexander Stadium to a live audience of over 30,000 and a global audience of over a billion here on Thursday night. Throughout its history, Birmingham has been enriched by its embrace of generations of Commonwealth communities, emerging as the multicultural city that it is today. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony was full of moments of inspiration and wonder. Pakistan wrestler Inam Butt and captain of Pakistan women’s cricket team Bismah Maroof led the Pakistan contingent as the joint flag-bearers at the opening ceremony. The ceremony signaled the start of 11 days of spectacular sports, with 4,500 of the Commonwealth’s finest athletes competing across 19 sports and eight para sports, in the largest event ever to be staged in the West Midlands region. Away from the marquee athletics and swimming events, women’s Twenty20 cricket makes its debut at the 22nd Games and 3×3 basketball will feature for the first time. There is an integrated para sports programme in some events in Birmingham, which stepped in for the South African city of Durban, originally chosen to host the Games.Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the medals table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished top in Glasgow — the last time the event was held on British soil.England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate teams during the Commonwealths rather than as a combined British outfit.The relevance of the quadrennial Commonwealth Games – first held in 1930 as the British Empire Games — has come under scrutiny, with persistent questions over Britain’s colonial legacy.Several Commonwealth nations, including Barbados and Jamaica, have either removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state or have signalled they intend to do so. Pakistani activist for female education and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai speaks during the opening ceremony on Thursday night. Prince Charles opened the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games by reading a message from Queen Elizabeth II in which she saluted Birmingham as a city “symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth.” Her message had been carried around the Commonwealth in a journey that began last October at Buckingham Palace.There was a special appearance and a moving address by MalalaYousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for female education who received the 2014 Peace Prize laureate aged 17 after defying the Taliban’s ban on girls from attending school in her native Swat and surviving an assassination attempt when she was shot in the head while riding on a bus, eventually recovering in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. “Every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her widest dreams,” she said. “It is my honour to say welcome to Birmingham, thank you.” Her words were fervently received. Making no fuss, she turned and exited as soon as she had spoken. The ceremony closed in style by the city’s beloved 1980s band Duran Duran playing a collection of their hits and a spectacular fireworks display. The evening had begun with a touching montage of shots featuring Queen Elizabeth II’s association with the Commonwealth during her 70-year reign. Numerous red, white and blue cars formed — from above — a Union flag, converged on the sandpit and from one of them emerged the figures of the Prince of Wales, representing The Queen, and the Duchess of Cornwall, after which the national anthem was sung. The ceremony welcomed this year’s athletes with a theatrical narrative exploring the rich and diverse history, culture and identity of Birmingham and the West Midlands. From early manufacturing and industry, through to innovation and cultural revolution, the ceremony challenged not only conventional expressions of storytelling, but also the way Birmingham sees itself. Addressing the stadium after the athletes’ parade, Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said: “After so much uncertainty, sadness and time apart, let us celebrate a dream come true — inspirational athletes back on the global stage, right here in Birmingham and the West Midlands! Birmingham — your Games are the first to award more medals to women than men, the most sustainable Games yet, and the largest ever integrated programme of disabled and non-disabled athletes. “Thank you for proudly hosting us and for everything you have done to get us here. Tonight, we are all back together again. I am thrilled to see this stadium full of supporters and teams from right across the Commonwealth.” Stella played by performer Lorell Boyce (L) sits atop the ‘Raging bull’ during the opening ceremony on Thursday night. Brought to life by ‘Stella and the Dreamers’ — a group of young athletes from around the 72 Commonwealth nations and territories — the opening ceremony recounted the city’s past experiences and how it continues to move forward, responding to new cultural and generational influences. Featuring over 1,500 professional and volunteer cast members, the opening ceremony evolved over 10 moving scenes beginning with the gathering of the Commonwealth’s ‘Shards’ — symbols of hopes and dreams, illuminated by 18,480 LED lights.In a memorable tribute to Her Majesty The Queen, Birmingham conservatoire graduate and mezzo-soprano Samantha Oxborough performed the national anthem, supported by the celebrated City of Birmingham symphony orchestra under acclaimed conductor Alpesh Chauhan, while musicians from The Royal Marines deliver a rousing trumpet fanfare. Bringing together the vibrancy of Birmingham and what it stands for, musical performances included multi-Grammy winning Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), acclaimed saxophonist Soweto Kinch, RnB vocalists Indigo Marshall and Gambimi, Grammy-award winning percussionist LekanBabalola, vocalist RanjanaGhatak, shawm player Jude Rees, bagpiper Chris Crouch, Djembe player Abraham Paddy Tetteh, The Destroyers, Critical Mass, City of Birmingham City Orchestra, acapella group Black Voices and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Mass Choir. Special guest appearances were also seen from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet School, as well as from Ginny Lemon, ‘Charlie Chaplin’ and a 10-metre high Bull — representative of Birmingham’s historic Bullring Market. The closing ceremony will take place on Monday 8th August at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium in a further celebration of the Commonwealth Games and its 2022 host region.