Commonwealth Games off and running in Australia
Opening ceremony celebrates laid-back Gold Coast lifestyle
Just as suddenly as a heavy rain shower drenched fans in the Commonwealth Games stadium Wednesday night, the weather cleared for an opening ceremony choreographed to showcase the traditional culture of Australia's indigenous people and the laid-back beach lifestyle of the Gold Coast.
- Canadians feeling right at home at Gold Coat Games
- Canada's Kylie Masse wants to live in the fast lane
- Taylor Ruck is 'the real deal'
Diver Meaghan Benfeito led Canada's team into the stadium, waving the Canadian flag above her head.
Canada has sent 283 athletes to Australia, including defending champions such as decathlete Damian Warner and wrestler Erica Wiebe. The team also includes first-time Commonwealth competitors like swimmer Penny Oleksiak and beach volleyball teammates Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Parades.
They'll be shooting for the Canadian team's stated goal of 100 medals; the last time Canada managed to reach the triple-digit plateau was 2002 in Manchester, when it took home 117 medals.
A polite round of applause at Canada House for the Canadian athletes (would you expect anything else?) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GC2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GC2018</a> <a href="https://t.co/6XFPujZ8y3">pic.twitter.com/6XFPujZ8y3</a>—@jpiercyCBC
Prince Charles delivered a message from Queen Elizabeth II to officially open the Commonwealth Games before fireworks exploded on cue.
The opening ceremony finished on a brighter note than the way it started Wednesday night, when a heavy rain shower drenched fans in the stadium.
The weather cleared quickly enough not to completely overshadow a ceremony choreographed to showcase the traditional culture of Australia's indigenous people and the laid-back beach lifestyle of the Gold Coast.
Charles and his wife Camilla arrived in Queensland state hours before the games festivities officially began and entered the stadium shortly after the rain cleared.
The Games end April 15.
Liz Cambage begins her tuneup for the WNBA season with the Dallas Wings when she leads the Australian team in the Commonwealth Games basketball competition. The 6-foot-8 centre is a two-time Olympian for Australia but is playing the Commonwealth Games for the first time. She's one of the most experienced players on the team, but doesn't think of herself as a veteran. "I'd still like to think of myself as one of the young ones," she said. "I'm not a veteran yet. I'm still 26, I'm still a baby, I'm trying to hold on to that."
Australia coach Sandy Brondello, who won three Olympic medals as a player with the Australian women's team, the Opals, had some simple advice for Cambage: "Just go in there and be Liz Cambage. Play your game, be your dominant self and everything will go well."
Australia opens against Mozambique on Friday in Townsville, north Queensland, about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) north of the Gold Coast. All preliminary matches in the men's and women's competitions are being played in Townsville and Cairns, also in north Queensland. The finals will be held on the final weekend — Aug. 13 to 15 — on the Gold Coast.
A small group of indigenous protesters blocked a Gold Coast road, bringing a temporary halt to the Queen's Baton Relay on its final day. The group of approximately 30 people lined up in nearby Southport, leaving the relay staff and baton runners stranded in a parking lot. After approximately an hour, organizers resumed the final leg of the relay. The baton is due at the stadium for the opening ceremony Wednesday night.
The protesters, calling themselves the "Stolenwealth Games," are using the Gold Coast games to highlight their "anti-colonial activity and authority views." Queensland police acknowledged the group's right to protest, saying: "Should any activities occur during a protest which pose a risk to the safety or enjoyment of the Commonwealth Games, the (police) will respond accordingly."
Games organizers have blundered by listing England as part of Africa in the official souvenir program.
The colorful Commonwealth Games 2018 edition lists the English capital as Banjul (instead of London), locates it in the Africa region and notes its population as slightly more than 2 million. That mirrors the details listed — correctly — for Gambia, only recently restored to the Commonwealth Games, directly underneath on Page 97. Gold Coast 2018 chief executive Mark Peters explained the blunder as an "overprint" as organizers rushed to accommodate Gambia's re-inclusion into the Commonwealth just weeks ago. The African nation did not compete at the 2014 Glasgow Games after withdrawing from the Commonwealth in 2013. A change of prime minister in 2016 led to the readmission of Gambia last month, and the country has six athletes competing on the Gold Coast.
Going for gold
The first gold medallist of the games will likely be the winner of the women's triathlon on Thursday, and the overwhelming favourite is two-time world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda. Duffy won six out of seven races in last year's World Triathlon Series. England's Alistair Brownlee, who has won gold in the past two Olympic triathlons, is entered in the men's race. The individual men's and women's races and a mixed team event on Saturday will be over the sprint distance — a swim leg of 750 metres, a 20-kilometre cycle and a 5-kilometre run, half of the Olympic version. Brownlee is coming off hip surgery last August and one of his biggest threats for gold will come from his brother Jonathan, who won silver behind Alistair at Glasgow in 2014, and bronze medallist Richard Murray of South Africa. Gold medals on day one of competition will also be presented in artistic gymnastics, track cycling, swimming and weightlifting.
Australian boxer Taylah Robertson ensured the first medal of the Commonwealth Games without setting foot in the ring. The 19-year-old Robertson was the beneficiary of a lucky draw in the women's 51-kilogram division and is guaranteed at least a bronze medal. Only seven boxers entered the competition, so three bouts will be contested as quarterfinals, with Robertson receiving a direct passage to the last four. Both losers of the semifinals win bronze medals. The boxing program starts Thursday.
Queensland state police are investigating an alleged assault involving an official and an athlete of the Mauritius team. Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the allegation involved "an assault of an aggravated matter." Gollschewski said police had been aware of an allegation before a complaint was made overnight. He declined to give further details. Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg said if the allegation is proved, it "compromises the integrity of everything we uphold in terms of a harm-free environment."
Jesse Parahi is new captain of the Australian rugby sevens team, and there have been a few before him this year. Long-time skipper Ed Jenkins retired at the start of the season, and his replacement, Lewis Holland, was injured in the team's last World Series tournament before the games. The man who replaced Holland, James Stannard, sustained a fractured skull in a one-punch attack last week and will miss the Commonwealth Games. Coach Andy Friend says the nature of the sport means the players are equipped to deal with what's transpired. "They're a very resilient group," he said. "You get a lot thrown at you ... you learn to deal with things on the run."
With files from CBC Sports