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The Games opens: a ceremony of gallusness with a powerful charity theme

The city of Benny Lynch, the haven of the eternal Wee Man, has always punched above its weight. Glasgow last night took a small budget and came up with a big idea.

It is what Scots do. The land that brought the world penicillin, television, the square sausage, the enlightenment, slagging as a way of declaring love, the novel, ships that sailed the world, quips that nailed the moment, modern engineering, the carry-oot and the philosophy of economics toyed with the idea of a conventional opening ceremony in the way that Jim Baxter once played with an English midfield.

It then gave it a bodyswerve.

Glasgow 2014 came up with the move that burst the net at a packed Celtic Park. It asked for financial generosity and matched that with a generosity of spirit that is part of the Scottish DNA.

Arms of more than 40,000 spectators were raised inside the stadium, with mobile phones providing a glittering mosaic. Numbers were texted inside the ground and across the globe. Each message pledged £5 to Unicef, which has come together with Glasgow 2014 to save children's lives across the world. The television audience had the potential to reach one billion viewers.

This spirit of charity was complemented by the themes of reconciliation with an imperial past and the promise that no one should fear a Scotland of the future. The most dramatic articulation of this act of faith came from Pumeza, the South African soprano, whose rendition of Freedom Come All Ye will be seen both as hymn to liberty but also an acceptance that the more sinister history of the Commonwealth has to be confronted before it can be consigned to history.

There was the heady glamour of celebrity inside Celtic Park, but there was sobering sentiment too. Billy Connolly, the greatest comedian in a city teeming with them, devoted his appearance to recalling the Clyde-built link forged with Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter.

There was Susan Boyle, Nicola Benedetti, Rod Stewart, Karen Matheson, Martin O'Neill, making a return to the stadium where he was both manager and hero, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, Amy Macdonald, a cast of more than 1000 volunteers and the contributions of a plethora of community groups.

There was also the game changer in a football stadium. All future opening ceremonies will surely have the charity text message as a staple element.

This, then, was an opening ceremony that was not content to entertain. It had a message of Glasgow gallusness and an undeniable theme of freedom from poverty, from illness, from the lingering fall-out from history.

And it had a Caledonian ambition. In the manner of John Baird, Alexander Fleming, Sir Walter Scott, David Hume and Adam Smith, it sought to change the world.

A budget of approximately £20million - about a quarter of that at the fabulous London Olympic ceremonies - was spent on a party that threatened to put the K of kitsch into kulture and kliche. But it all succeeded, though the Duke of Wellington, sitting in statue in the stadium with the mandatory cone on his head, might have observed: "It was a damn close-run thing."

An early profusion of kilts, sporrans and Nessie was in danger of also putting the K in kringe. It was lightened by a self-deprecatory irony that saw cans of Irn-Bru holding up the Forth Bridge, a scattering of outsized tea cakes littering the ground, and shortbread standing for the Callanish Stones.

John Barrowman, the darling of the international audiences, was joined by Karen Dunbar, whose sincerity of welcome was moving as was, oddly, the section that owed most to Danny Boyle's London extravaganza: the glimpses of the shipyards and their workers caused a craving for the Scotland of full employment and multiple trades.

The ceremony blossomed into something irreverent but strangely wonderful with Amy Macdonald kicking off a raucous The Rhythm Of My Heart in George Square with a series of unlikely accompanists, including Rod Stewart, who was as enthused as a Celtic fan on the main stage at Parkhead can be.

There was even a ballet version of the Proclaimers' 500 Miles, stepped out in front of the screen that stretched so far it would have taken even Usain Bolt 10 seconds to race across.

There was also Susan Boyle reprising Mull Of Kintyre and Nicola Benedetti giving the world a version of Loch Lomond that would have brought a tear to a moneylender's eye.

The energy was raised further by Andy Stewart, resurrected from the White Heather Club, and singing its eternal theme of Come In Come In.

Brilliantly and dramatically, it was turned into a soaring, searing chorus by use of the mash-up. People of a certain age may regard a mash-up only as a process that requires potatoes, a large dollop of butter and a pummelling. However, a traditional, jaunty piece of Scottish history became something breathtakingly modern and extraordinarily powerful.

A degree of reverence was restored for the National Anthem after the Queen had completed a lap of honour at Celtic Park with the aid of four bouncing wheels and fuelled by driving applause and Sir Chris Hoy had brought the baton home with the help of his great uncle Andy Coogan, who introduced him to cycling.

The parade of athletes was interspersed with messages about the work of Unicef and the message that mere touches on a mobile phone could change the world.

The teams entered to a tumult behind Scottish terriers. Their owners lifted the odd reluctant pooch who had discerned almost immediately that a circuit around Celtic Park constituted a lot of Scottie steps.

A special cheer was reserved for the entrance of the English and the Tongan with the Celtic strip. The Scottish team, led by judoka Euan Burton, followed a Scottie so big it was surely a Shetland Pony in fancy dress. The roar was suitably loud and prolonged.

The atmosphere was one of welcome rather than politically charged, though the singing of Freedom Come All Ye by Pumeza can be interpreted to suit a variety of purposes, including one of Scottish independence. The song has been described as a Scottish national anthem but, crucially, also anticipates a nation free of a past where it played a significant role in imperialism.

In 2014 the athletes of a Commonwealth once seized and shaped by the forces of a small island danced, cavorted and swayed to a series of tunes having been welcomed from afar by the astronauts of the International Space Station.

They were also greeted in a more down to earth manner by the word of Burns that proclaim: "Wi' joy unfeigned brothers and sisters meet."

But Henderson's words, too, had an import: "Broken faimlies in lands we've hairriet/ Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair."

There was remembrance of past hurts and a promise of future shared peacefully. They were franked by the more prosaic typing of the word First and then the figures 70333. A generation of children will benefit from the riches that accrue from a party on a patch of land in Glasgow.

There was a swagger in the East End last night. There was substance too. This was all underlined finally by an explosion of fireworks. Mercifully, the Red Road flats escaped unscathed.

When all the hoo-ha died down, after another blast of Rod, it was time for the speeches.

The Queen spoke of the "shared ideals and ambitions" of the Commonwealth when she delivered the message which has travelled the world in the Games' baton relay.

She said: "The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.

"And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games."

She added: "It now gives me great pleasure to declare the 20th Commonwealth Games open."

Judging by the crowd reaction, that sense of pleasure is sure to be the mark of the Games over the next 11 days.

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