A dazzling opening ceremony has kicked off the Commonwealth Games in Delhi following a shambolic build up that threatened to derail the event. Prince Charles and India’s President Pratibha Patil jointly declared the Games open at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in front of a near-capacity crowd of 60,000. The audience stood to sing India’s national anthem and traditional drummers beat out the countdown to the opening as the stadium lights were dimmed.A pyrochtechnical display of fireworks heralded the lift-off a massive helium balloon, reportedly costing $9m (£5.7m), which rose 80ft above the ground. After a performance by singers, dancers and school children, 6,700 athletes from the 71 countries taking part made their entry into the stadium.
In the run-up, the event was beset by a catalogue of problems – from concerns about living conditions in the athletes’ village to a pedestrian bridge collapsing near the main stadium. Yesterday, an official on the Indian lawn bowling team was taken from the athletes’ village to hospital with dengue fever – the first case of the mosquito-borne disease at the Games.
Ruptu Gogoi’s condition is said to be stable, but the case may renew fears over the spread of the illness, which has struck at least 3,500 people in Delhi this year.
At one point during the run-up, it was unclear whether the event – dubbed India’s “Shame Games” by local media – would go ahead. But organisers worked round the clock to try to fix the issues and army engineers were even drafted in to repair the broken walkway. The Games, only the second to be staged in Asia, are expected to see near unprecedented levels of security for a major sporting event. Around 5,000 police personnel have been posted to the stadium and other measures have seen snipers and commandos deployed to the area. Army units have also reportedly been put on standby.
Many notable names in world athletics have chosen to either overlook the Games or have withdrawn through injury. But among those taking part are double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington and reigning world 10-metre platform diving champion Tom Daley. Before attending the opening ceremony the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall, visited the athletes. Camilla spoke to decathletes Tom Reynolds and Roger Skedd, remarking that both men, who had removed their t-shirts in the hot conditions, “looked very fit”.
Meanwhile Charles was introduced to the members of the Australian women’s hockey team, who were to be found cooling off in a shallow swimming pool. The group also toured various facilities including the weightlifting and wrestling areas and the sections used by the swimmers – Skynews