Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham with giant bull, classic cars and library on fire taking centre stage at opening ceremony

The 22nd Commonwealth Games has officially begun with a huge opening ceremony kicking off the competition in Birmingham.

Starting at 8pm and lasting about two and a half hours, the ceremony took place at the Alexander Stadium with Prince Charles watching from the stands.

It came almost 10 years to the day since the critically-acclaimed opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

Over the next 11 days, more than 5,000 athletes from a total of 72 nations will compete across 19 sports.

It will also be the first major multi-sport games to award more medals to women than men.

England, Australia and Canada will be joined by lesser-known federations such as Norfolk Island, which will be represented in the second city by 14 lawn bowlers.

Bearing the flag for Team England during the ceremony was diver Jack Laugher and weightlifter Emily Campbell.

As the ceremony began, the crowd of 30,000 people cheered and whistled while performers danced and sang.

Throughout the performance, a video played showing a star falling to earth and various people, known as Stella and the Dreamers, collecting pieces of it.

The ceremony aimed to tell the story of the group as they discover Birmingham, meeting historical people from the city, who are depicted with bizarre giant figures, and learning about its past as they go.

The first part of the show concluded with 72 houses appearing in the stadium, representing each of the nations competing this year.

A tribute was also paid to the Queen for her leadership of the Commonwealth, with a combination of clips played showing various appearances and speeches during her role as the head of state.

While she is not at the opening ceremony, Charles and Camilla are there to represent the Royal Family - making quite the entrance by driving into the stadium in an Aston Martin.

Also appearing in a number of classic cars were a group of Birmingham residents, who formed a huge giant Union Jack with their vehicles.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra then performed the national anthem alongside a choir and opera singer Samantha Oxborough.

As Stella and the Dreamers continue their journey, they are shown the fire of the Library of Birmingham in 1879, which destroyed a number of Shakespeare's works and the building.

In a perhaps unexpected appearance, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafza took to the stage to deliver an inspirational speech about her experience in the city.

"Over the next few weeks, as we watch the incredible athletes of the Commonwealth Games, remember that every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her wildest dreams," she said.

The world's youngest Nobel Prize laureate was taken to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in 2012 after she was shot in the head in Pakistan for demanding the right to education.

Her applauded speech was followed by a heartwarming song by two Birmingham singers, who were surrounded by dancers from around the West Midlands.

Continuing on with the tale of the city, the performance entered a steampunk theme to depict the industrial revolution.

A giant mechanical bull was dragged into the stadium by 50 female chain-makers, leading actors to run and scream.

The beast was then "tamed" by Stella and the Dreamers and a bright celebration ensued with various different genres of dance performed.

As the dancers clashed, the once calm bull began to get agitated and the ceremony took a peaceful turn as performers came together to unite and restore peace.

Once the performances came to an end, competing athletes paraded into the stadium with Team England entering to We Will Rock You.

CGF President Dame Louise Martin DBE said: "Our 72 nations and territories are all here - and Birmingham looks magnificent.

"The city and wider region will provide the perfect stage for our athletes to compete. I believe this event will be one of the greatest and most important editions of the Commonwealth Games in our 92-year history."

Olympian Tom Daley, who is not competing, appeared later in the Queen's Baton Relay and used his role to highlight LGBTQ+ rights.

He was joined by Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Max Whitlock - who is also not competing - boxer Galal Yafai, British Paralympian and junior doctor Kim Daybell and retired hockey player Alex Danson-Bennett.

Games organisers want sport to be the vehicle to start the conversations and prompt the actions necessary to tackle inequality and discrimination across the Commonwealth.

The night concluded with a musical performance from Duran Duran, who were accompanied by a spectacular fireworks display.

Unfortunately, Team England's medal hopes were dealt a blow on Wednesday when sprinter Dina Asher-Smith was forced to withdraw from the games due to a hamstring injury.

Asher-Smith had broken her British record to finish fourth in the World 100m final last week and won a bronze medal in the 200m.