Opening ceremony’s bare butt
A BUTT, several A-list snubs and a bored royal busted reading a magazine have helped kick off the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Wednesday night's opening ceremony.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, rumours swirled some of Australia's biggest Hollywood exports would make surprise appearances at the event. A Hemsworth! Margot Robbie! ONJ! I was secretly hoping the first two would come dressed as their respective Home & Away and Neighbours characters and perform some kind of skit.
But each of these rumours was false. Organisers didn't even deliver on my suggestion to have Gold Coast legend Schapelle Corby hoisted down into the stadium inside a giant papier-mâché bodyboard bag.
It's a funny era for Australian sports. We just don't have any celebrity athletes like we used to. The kind that are good both in the arena and on the cover of a New Idea. God, I'd settle for a Stephanie Rice right now.
Anyway, the athletes we do have are made to experience everything the Gold Coast has to offer - including the glamorous public transport system. An hour before the opening ceremony begins, they're shoved onto a bus and set off to Carrara stadium.
We all tune in at 7pm as directed by the TV guide, but soon realise we've been tricked and the opening ceremony won't start for another hour. For 60 minutes, we watch Channel Seven personalities Tom Williams and Rachael Finch enthusiastically running around various Gold Coast locations wearing polo shirts like two PE teachers at a sports carnival. At least host Edwina Bartholomew put her foot down and demanded a Portmans blazer.
When the magic finally starts, it's what we expect: A Rock Eisteddfod that takes place on a lot of sand.
As with all major Australian events, Christine Anu is wheeled out to give an electric performance of My Island Home. Is she singing live? Is she lip syncing? A lot of people are up in arms. Do we really care either way? She looks like she exerted an unnecessary amount of energy regardless.
The intense emotion of the night is right on the surface. You can feel it. And it reaches its peak when, during a powerful rendition of the Australian anthem, overlay footage plays of a white family draped over foam pool noodles at a Rydges resort.
Suddenly, Carrara stadium is transformed into a man-made beach and Australian Idol Top 10 contestant Ricki-Lee Coulter whirls into the arena laying completely horizontal on a surfboard carried by dancers in boardshorts. She continues to sing like this for about four minutes as students dressed as characters from Puberty Blues bop around her.
Amid the flurry of Rickie-Lee's performance, one of the Puberty Blues dancers experiences an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction and somehow loses her bikini bottoms in the razzle dazzle of it all. Despite being surrounded by literally 175 towels, no one attempts to cover her with one. Instead, she hunches over and frantically lurches back into the sea of dancers.
It's at this point Charles and Camilla begin to wonder why they bothered leaving the palace.
Finally, it's time for the athletes to enter. This part's always fun for the first 30 seconds until you realise there's, like, a million countries and we have to roll-call all of them.
To maintain audience interest, Scotland enters first - which means hot male athletes in kilts with no underwear.
"You always love it when the Scots come out in their kilts, don't you?" Channel Seven commentator Tamsyn Lewis observes to no one in particular.
"Yes, we bloody do, Tamsyn," I reply to my empty office.
The African countries always nail their uniforms and this year's no exception. They're just fabulous. I'd honestly wear any of these outfits to the office or my next social event.
When Australia is called in, I kind of wish a last-minute change to the uniform was made and our athletes entered draped in the old towels that the guys on the Today Show had to swathe themselves in when they got pelted with hail while broadcasting live on the beach this morning.
Hockey captain Mark Knowles did a fine job as flag-bearer and I for one enjoyed the perceived drama his selection over local favourite Sally Pearson caused. But who wants to be flag-bearer anyway? It's a lot of responsibility and I imagine it requires extra rehearsal time. There's anxiety about accidentally walking the entire Australian team in the wrong direction. And what if there's confusion over who has to iron the flag prior to the ceremony? Plus, your arms would get tired. Pearson dodged a bullet.
It's when Peter Beattie begins to crap on about various things that Camilla is actually busted reading a magazine. I don't know what the magazine is, but she looks very invested. I imagine she's reading some kind of Who Wore It Best feature about Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. When she realises she's been busted, she pauses, but the camera stays on her. She slowly dog-ears the page and puts the magazine down.
At about the seven-hour mark, we start having hallucinations that a bright coloured Kombi van is careening through the stadium. But it's not an illusion. It skids to a stop, the door slides open and out busts swimming legend Susie O'Neill holding the Queen's Baton. It's basically the Olympic torch but no one calls it that and I assume there's some kind of trademark issue.
Anyway, Suze is made slow-mo run around the entire stadium and wave to people in silence but it takes so long that everyone stops clapping and it gets incredibly awkward. It eventually gets handed to netball champion Liz Ellis and, honestly, I really do love Liz Ellis so much. She's probably the only person in the world who can slow-mo run while holding a light-up stick who I won't make fun of.
The stick gets handed to nan and pop and they fiddle around with it for a while before a seven-year-old comes and unlocks it for them.
The athletes are tired. The stadium canteen has run out of hot chips. People have already started leaving to avoid the cues in the car park. So organisers slash the final proceedings and cut to the last performance.
As most good nights do, this evening ends with a Delta Goodrem song and a pounding from several muscly men in tank tops.
For more observations on pool noodles and the glamorous public transport system, follow me on Twitter: @hellojamesweir