TV review: When it comes to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, never mind the sense, it’s the spectacle that really matters

Although the opening ceremony to the London Olympics in 2012 – Mr Bean! Rings of fire! The NHS! – was hailed as a harbinger of a Britain reborn, it turned out to presage a decade of doom.

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 29th July 2022, 5:00 pm

So you had to wonder what appalling calamities will befall the country, and the world, after the Commonwealth Games 2022 opening ceremony (BBC1, Thurs, 7pm), the curtain-opener to the first multi-sports event since those London games, as Claire Balding never tired of telling us.

Given that opening ceremonies represent the build-up to the games themselves, it seemed odd that the BBC would present us with an hour of build-up to the build-up. We had with the volunteers, and the person who designed the medals, and various Brummies – famous or otherwise.

We had those sort-of-poems that building societies like to use in their ads to show us they’re not rapacious profit-mongers, but caring, sensitive types into Sylvia Plath and long walks in the country.

A raging bull at the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Then the actual ceremony got under way, and although commentators Hazel Irvine – schoolmarm-y, slightly humourless – and Andrew Cotter – mischievous, fond of a fact – told us what was going on in the Alexander Stadium, it was still largely incomprehensible to the viewer at home.

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Proud Prestonians hold the Queen's Baton at relay

What matters, though, is not the sense, but the spectacle, and this had flying houses, mechanical bulls, fireworks, and by the time the athletes filed in – all widescreen smiles, cameraphones snapping, colourful official outfits and all – you really believed that this time, finally, the powers-that-be might actually listen to the message of hope, of equality, of inclusion.

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Athletes from Cameroon enter the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

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