The fifth Commonwealth Youth Games was officially declared open at a colourful ceremony celebrating Samoan traditions and culture held in the Apia Park Stadium and streamed live around the world.
Youth Team Scotland were led into a packed arena by flagbearer Craig McLean to an enthusiastic welcome from the Samoan crowd and a bank of saltires waved by the travelling Scottish support.
“It felt amazing to lead out such a strong team and the atmosphere was fantastic,” said Craig. “It’s the highlight of my career so far, I’ve never done anything like it. I’ll never forget the first fifteen seconds after we came into the arena, hearing people shout “Scotland!” The crowd was absolutely unbelievable and there were loads of Scottish flags too, I didn’t expect that. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, me at the front of Team Scotland, it’s unforgettable.”
Isle of Man led the parade of nations as the previous Youth Games hosts and were followed by the 66 competing nations in alphabetical order as is traditional at all Commonwealth Games. With Samoa hosting the Games and so having the honour of being the last team to enter the stadium, Scotland followed Papua New Guinea for the first time in Games history. A spectacular programme of traditional dancing and acrobatics followed and, as darkness descended, fireworks lit up the sky to delighted applause from the crowd.
General Team Manager Elinor Middlemiss said: “What a fantastic start to the 2015 Youth Games. Samoa have done a wonderful job in welcoming the Commonwealth with an incredible display of their culture and I’m sure the athletes have come away from tonight with memories that they will treasure for a lifetime. It made me incredibly proud to see Youth Team Scotland march out after all the hard work they have put in to get here. With that welcome from the crowd I’m sure that our athletes will be raring to go and ready to do themselves and their sports proud when competition starts on Monday.”
The focus now turns to five days of intense sporting action as 904 athletes compete for 107 Gold medals across nine sports.
“I think we’ve got an amazing team and team morale is booming,” said Craig, who will compete in six swimming events. “It’s absolutely amazing right now and I think that will make the difference for us. Having that support from our team mates I’ve got really high hopes that we’re going to have a great Games.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images