Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games open with spectacular ceremony

29 Jul 2022
A woman in traditional clothes and in a wheelchair carries the Vanuatu flag in an athlete's parade.
Elie Enock, who is representing Vanuatu in Para athletics and Para powerlifting, carried the country's flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
ⒸAlex Davidson/Getty Images
By Mary Barber | For the IPC

Unity, diversity, strength and resilience were the themes beamed out to billions of people around the world at the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on Thursday, 28 July.

In this unique festival of sporting greatness, a combined 4,500 Para athletes and those without disabilities from 72 nations and territories came together in the Alexander Stadium in the West Midlands city in England. 

The athletes will compete across 19 sports with eight Para sports - the most ever - and any medals they win over the next 11 days will go into a shared medal tally, a rare feat at an international competition. 

"It’s the only multi-sport large event where we all come together under one team, whether it’s England, Scotland or Wales," said Para powerlifter Micky Yule who was flagbearer for Scotland at the Opening Ceremony. "It’s massive for us and we’re just showing what Para sport can do. We are here to win medals just as much as anybody else."

The 30,000-strong crowd at the stadium cheered the Commonwealth’s finest athletes with great enthusiasm. Among them, Australia’s Para cyclist sprint B champion Jessica Gallagher and England’s six-time world and Paralympic wheelchair racing champion, David Weir. 

The smaller islands also shone on the world stage. Vanuatu was led out by flagbearer Elie Enock, who lost her leg in a car accident at 20 years old but is now a medal hopeful in javelin and shot put.


The athletes' grit was reflected by a cast of thousands in the story of Stella and the Dreamers. In it a group of athletes from around the Commonwealth explored the history, culture, and the identity of Birmingham, which was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in iron and steel production, and how it is emerging as a vibrant, multicultural city.

The poignant scene entitled ‘Hear My Voice’ was an anthem to all the unheard, undervalued, and unacknowledged voices that have made Birmingham the city that it is today. These included city newcomers, from the Irish community which helped dig the canals, to the immigrants answering the 1950s call to help rebuild the city, and the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city's symbol, a metal bull, made an appearance in the Opening Ceremony. @Getty Images

To recognise its renewal and rejuvenation, an inclusive dance collective, called Critical Mass, made up of more than 300 young people with half of the cast self-identifying as deaf, disabled, neurodivergent or living with a long-term health condition, performed side-by-side with non-disabled performers.

Artistic director Iqbal Khan said: “We know this show will connect with a global audience as we celebrate the best of Birmingham on an international stage.”

There were more than 10,000 colourful costumes, dance groups, acrobats, carnival characters, hundreds of cars to reflect the city’s motor industry, the emancipation of women involving a magnificent giant sculpture of the city’s symbol, a bull, and a reenactment of the hit TV global drama Peaky Blinders, whose screenwriter and film director Steven Knight was the executive producer of the Opening Ceremony.

Singing superstars and “Brummie” locals Duran Duran continued the party with a medley of their hits.

Prince Charles opened Birmingham 2022 on behalf of the Queen and the flag of the Commonwealth Games was hoisted to mark the start of 11 days of sporting excellence. It is the largest multi-sport event held in the UK since London 2012.

A magnificent firework display lit up the sky above the city and confetti rained down on the crowd below. It was a night of celebration and spectacle, and centre-stage were the athletes who reaffirmed to the world the role of sport and the power it can have to celebrate our differences and to live side-by-side in peace and unity.