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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 11:31 GMT
Spectacular ceremony opens Games
Fireworks light up the sky above the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Around 81,000 spectators were treated to a lavish show
The Queen has declared the Commonwealth Games open in a glittering ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

She received the Queen's baton, which has travelled to all 71 competing nations, from Australian running legend and Governor of Victoria John Landy.

The two-hour spectacular, thought to have cost 20m, kicked off with the arrival of a 'flying' Melbourne tram.

England flag-bearer Tony Ally led the 71 teams into the stadium, where they were serenaded by singer Delta Goodrem.

The former Neighbours star sang Together We Are One, co-written with boyfriend and former Westlife singer Brian McFadden.

The 81,000 crowd earlier joined Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in singing a rendition of Happy Birthday combined with the National Anthem to the Queen, who celebrates her 80th birthday next month.

The ceremony marks the start of 12 days of competition featuring 4,500 athletes.

However, missing from Melbourne will be Australian stars Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett as well as England's Paula Radcliffe.

And defending 100m champion Kim Collins was a shock absentee from the St Kitts & Nevis team entering the stadium on Wednesday.

The 100m champion has withdrawn from the Games with injury.

Wednesday's ceremony began with the surreal sight of a winged tram landing in the centre of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which will host the athletics competition.

Flying Melbourne tram
A flying Melbourne tram opened the ceremony at the MCG

The Queen, dressed in gold and accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in a limousine and stood as the Australian National Anthem was played before taking her seat.

She watched as the ceremony continued with a boy being led on a magical adventure by a toy duck, featuring scenes evoking Australia's cultural heritage.

England, hosts of the 2002 Games in Manchester, led the 71 competing nations into the arena.

The host nation entered last to a huge ovation.

The Australian flag was carried by Jane Saville, who famously missed out on Olympic gold at Sydney 2000 when she was disqualified 150m before the finish of the 20km walk.

Meanwhile, the baton made its way along a raft of floats on the Yarra River, carried by the captains of all 16 Aussie Rules football teams.

It was eventually brought into the stadium by Sydney gold medallist Cathy Freeman and carried by Australian legends Ron Clarke, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson and finally Landy.

The Queen read out her own message, which was contained in the baton.

"We celebrate the value of sport as a means of bringing together people from 71 nations and territories and from a wide range of cultures, traditions and beliefs," she said.

The show's finale featured Goodrem performing as in-line skaters trailing jets of sparks set off a fireworks display across the stadium's Colosseum-style roof and throughout the city.





Links to more Commonwealth Games stories


 



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Commonwealth Games photos
15 Mar 06 |  Photo Galleries


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