Glasgow gave the world a warm, Scottish welcome at a Commonwealth Games ceremony full of humour, music and featuring a major fundraising appeal.
The spectacle at Celtic Park marked the official start of the 20th Games as Commonwealth head the Queen received the ceremonial baton and read out a message of good wishes to the 4,500 athletes and officials taking part.
An audience of around 40,000 and an estimated one billion global viewers watched as competitors from 71 nations and territories paraded on the eve of the competition, with the biggest cheers reserved for Team Scotland.
A cast of 2,000 were involved in the two-and-a-half hour show which acted as a celebration of all things Scottish, from Tunnock’s teacakes to the Forth Rail Bridge.
There were poignant moments too, when Scotland’s First Minister led a minute silence for the Malaysia Airlines plane victims and there was a tribute to Nelson Mandela from comedian Billy Connolly.
The Queen said: “The 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.
“To you, the Commonwealth athletes, I send my good wishes for success in your endeavours. Your accomplishments over the coming days will encourage us all to strengthen the bonds that unite us.”
Glasgow-born entertainer John Barrowman kicked off proceedings with Karen Dunbar from the comedy sketch show Chewin’ The Fat in a quirky tour of Scotland taking in Edinburgh Castle, The Loch Ness Monster and Glasgow’s Finnieston Crane.
Barrowman kissed a male cast member at a mock Gretna Green in the colourful show which also celebrated decades of pioneering Scottish inventors.
Glasgow singer Amy Macdonald joined rocker Rod Stewart for a rendition of his hit Rhythm Of My Heart, while Susan Boyle appeared to stumble slightly over the words of Mull Of Kintyre.
There were huge cheers for the parading teams – and the jacketed Scottie dogs which were lead out in front of each group.
The Saltire was held aloft by judo’s Euan Burton, who said: “It was a phenomenal reception when we entered the stadium. It’s a windy evening and the flag is fluttering high. I’m so proud to be leading the team.”
“It’s my first Commonwealth Games and there’s no better place for a Scotsman to be.”
There was a brief moment of embarrassment when the baton containing the Queen’s message refused to open for Prince Imran of Malaysia, the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
But Sir Chris Hoy, who was given the honour of delivering the baton to the royal box, came to the rescue.
Sir Chris joined Scottish actors Ewan McGregor, who was on screen, and James McAvoy in an unprecedented appeal for donations to Unicef’s Children of the Commonwealth Fund.
The charity said last night that initial figures showed that more than £2.5 million had already been raised to help young people across the nations.
First Minister Alex Salmond said at the ceremony: “It is Scotland’s honour to stage and setting 11 days of celebration of sport and culture which are our Commonwealth Games.
“They belong to us all. So from the people of Scotland let us affirm the most important message of all. Welcome to the Commonwealth of nations. Failte gu Alba. Welcome to Scotland.”
The event, seven years in the planning, was brought to a close with a spectacular fireworks display at the stadium and across the city.