The Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, which is due to begin at Celtic Park at 8pm today, will potentially have a global audience of 1.5 billion, according to Glasgow 2014 organisers – and it will certainly have more than a dollop of local flavour, and “a distinctly Glaswegian accent”.
Home-grown heroes and heroines have been lined up to entertain in the two-hour extravaganza, which will take place in the 40,000-seater home of Celtic Football Club (where those in the stadium will pay between £20 and £250), and the 6,500 athletes from 70 nations will be introduced to the crowd by a different citizen of Glasgow (or “chieftain”) before 11 days of competition.
David Zolkwer, the Glasgow 2014 head of ceremonies who directed the 2002 Games ceremonies in his native Manchester, said: “We knew right from the start that the source of inspiration and the voice and character and personality of the ceremony had to reflect and explicitly include the people of the city.”
The 69-year-old rocker Rod Stewart (who was actually born and raised in Highgate in London), West Lothian-reared Susan Boyle, 53, who starred in 2009’s Britain’s Got Talent, as well as East Dunbartonshire’s Amy Macdonald, will feature. And Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti will also take the stage, among some 2,000 fellow cast and crew in the firework-heavy show.
“You will see a lot of Glaswegians and Scots, and a lot of people from further afield, and you will also hear them,” continued Zolkwer, who choreographed the 2010 World Cup Opening and Closing Ceremonies in South Africa, among other notable events. “We have a mass cast but we have set out to represent lots and lots of individuals. There is relatively little in the show that is about mass synchronicity.
“It’s not about homogenising the city or asking them to pretend to be anything other than who they are. Given Glasgow is such a generous, hospitable, warm city, it seemed natural to think about how we behave as a host.
“The ceremony is about all of us – being interested in the people we are inviting into our house and hearing their stories, and looking more at what we have in common than what differentiates us.
“It’s got humour, warmth, celebrating what we have in common. Having said all that, it will always feel like it was created in Glasgow. So, although we are telling a universal story, we are telling it with a distinctly Glaswegian accent, which means we are going to be irreverent, funny, principled, sincere, inclusive, personal, direct. We are talking down the lens, we are not asking the world to watch a show.”
However, not everything has gone smoothly. For instance, organisers were forced to shelve plans to screen the demolition of five of the tower blocks in the Red Road Flats complex – a long-standing totem to overcrowded slum housing – in north Glasgow. More than 70,000 people signed an online petition stating the proposal was insensitive to former residents and the asylum seekers who still occupied the sixth block.
There are other sparkles of progression, though, as a partnership with children’s charity Unicef will see several Scottish doctors who recently visited Malawi launch an appeal at the Opening Ceremony to the vast television audience.