An Australian athlete friend of mine, swimmer Neil Keele, is my "embedded reporter" in the Copenhagen games and agreed to send me live reports. Neil is an educator who trained for these Games for a long time. Owing to Internet difficulties, Neil's eyewitness comment on the July 25 opening ceremony didn't reach me right away. But it's worth a read, because it takes us there.
Neil's report after the jump:
From around 1930s hours, to the west of City Hall, participants and volunteers were milling around in the closed-off street. The Opening Ceremony was due to begin at 2100, so everyone was becoming a little restless with chants coming from some countries, notably Australia with its “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi." Some other countries began singing and dancing, such as the French and the previous hosts, Montreal. It was a happy party atmosphere.
Around 2125 the participants began moving into the City Square in sixes, up to the rear of the stage and then down the walkway to the front and out into the Participants’ area. Thousands of spectators were surrounding the City Square and taking up vantage points from the surrounding buildings.
Over 90 countries were represented in the opening march-past. Once all the participants were assembled, the Danes presented a story about the first gay couple to be registered partners. One of those gentlemen, who is quite elderly, was in attendance. Everyone appreciated hearing the story and seeing the old gentleman.
The Mayor of Copenhagen had a welcoming message to all participants, volunteers and guests. It covered the development and organisation of the World Outgames 2009, and how there was cooperation from the local government and nearby areas as well as corporations and others. The slogan “Love of freedom – freedom to love!” was highlighted, as was the “It is not a crime to be yourself” -- something they are concentrating on in Copenhagen over this week.
When the music for “Love is in the Air” began, and the aerialists started their brilliant performance, the skies opened up and dumped a heavy downpour. It cooled everyone down considerably but the aerialists kept going. It was very slippery for them, and the audience showed their appreciation -- many recognised the possibly dangerous conditions.
Then the crowd thinned out because many were getting cold and wet following the “opening of the skies” – which did look fantastic in the lights. Some people headed for their beds with events to attend in the morning, while many others headed off to the party – walking to the harbour and then boating across to the venue to celebrate until the early morning. Buses & boats were also laid on for partygoers to return to Copenhagen central, all through the early morning hours.
Thanks, Neil. Nothing like hearing it direct from someone who's there.