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Commonwealth Games kick off in blaze of Gold Coast colour

Fire fighter: Flames burst from tinder held by an Aboriginal performer PICTURE: AP

A TROPICAL rainstorm in the Sunshine State served as a suitably eccentric beginning to an opening ceremony in which the Prince of Wales declared open the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Athletes from major nations and tiny Pacific atolls marched shoulder to soggy shoulder during a vibrant ceremony which celebrated both the region’s indigenous origins and its modern surfing culture.

Royal connection: Charles and Camilla watch the ceremony PICTURE: EPA

‘Even though we are half a world away, we are all connected,’ said the Prince of Wales, after the final leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay was completed by Australian hurdling star Sally Pearson in the Cararra Stadium.

A matter of hours earlier, protesters from the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance group had held up the Baton relay for 50 minutes as it neared its final destination.

Others with less justification continue to dismiss the Commonwealth Games as an increasing anachronism in today’s corporate-fuelled, global sporting age.

Try making such claims to athletes like Tereapii Tapoki, who trained for her shot put and discus disciplines by throwing coconuts back home in her native Cook Islands.

Frankly fishy: Dancers perform beneath a vast inflatable PICTURE: AP

Or the two members of the Kiribati boxing team who have been forced to finish their preparations outdoors because the only boxing ring in their entire country is currently broken.

Only at the Commonwealth Games can septugenarian lawn bowlers mix with the likes of 11-year-old Anna Hursey, who will make her debut for Wales in the table tennis on Thursday.

And only at the Commonwealth Games, one can’t help feeling, could England be confused with the Gambia in the official programme, which proclaimed the capital of no less than the head of the Commonwealth herself to be Banjul.

The Games is no stranger to a Royal rumpus: the soon-to-be-disgraced head of the Delhi Games, Suresh Kalmadi, mistook the Duchess of Cornwall for Princess Diana upon being introduced to the couple in 2010.

Warbling away: Australian singer Delta Goodrem performs during the ceremony PICTURE: AFP

Mercifully there were no such embarrassing faux-pas on Wednesday night and the initial torrential downpour made way for the kind of early evening warmth with which this area of the Queensland coast is more accustomed.

With many of its venues strung a lifebelt’s throw from the surf and more sun scheduled for the duration, Gold Coast appears to offer all the ingredients necessarily to enrich and sustain the Games in defiance of those who wish to denigrate its importance.

Reeling from its ball-tampering scandal, hosts Australia will seek to use the Games to restore some much-needed sporting dignity and reclaim top spot in the medals table from England, who topped the list in Glasgow for the first time since 1986.

England for their part have brought out their big guns in the likes of Olympic champions Max Whitlock, Adam Peaty and Alistair Brownlee, while professional preparations could yield a virtual clean sweep of gold medals in the boxing ring.

Bright house: Fireworks light up the sky as a finale PICTURE: AFP

But with respect to those who bring much-needed stardust, it is the sprinkling of athletes from so-called lesser nations who best embody the uniqueness of the Commonwealth Games – and encapsulate why it continues to justify its place on the sporting calendar.