The Queen will formally open the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later in front of a 40,000 crowd at Celtic Park.

Organisers say a global TV audience of up to a billion people is expected to watch the event from 21:00 BST.

More than 4,500 athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories will parade during the curtain raiser.

About 2,000 cast members will perform in a ceremony that organisers have promised “will surprise, delight and be uniquely Glaswegian and Scottish”.

The Games will feature 17 sports in 11 days of competition, which begins on Thursday. The closing ceremony takes place at Hampden Stadium, which has been transformed into an athletics venue, on 3 August.

The opening ceremony will feature a parade around Celtic Park by thousands of athletes taking part in the Games.

The journey from their accommodation, at the Athlete’s Village in Dalmarnock, close to Celtic Park, is expected to take about one hour.

India, as previous host, will lead the parade, which will end with the current host, Team Scotland.

Teams will parade by region. At the start of each region the crowd will be shown video of some of the work that Unicef is doing in that part of the Commonwealth.

At the end of the parade, athletes and team officials will be seated on the field of play, in the centre of the show.

The centrepiece of the opening ceremony will be a live show consisting of about 2,000 people.

‘Extraordinary things’

Just over 1,600 will take part in the stadium with the other 400 having been involved in making pre-filmed content.

The content of the show is secret but head of ceremonies and artistic director David Zolkwer promised it would have a distinct theme.

“Our goal has always been to have the people of Glasgow and Scotland take centre-stage, for them to speak and sing and dance for themselves,” he said.

“So, on the night our audience will witness thousands of real people doing extraordinary things – and in the process I know our volunteer cast performers will do themselves, the city and Scotland proud.”

Celtic Park, home of Scottish Premier League champions Celtic, has been dramatically transformed for the opening ceremony.

Europe’s largest LED screen has been installed, along with a specially created stage floor covering the entire pitch, including a walkway specifically designed for the athlete’s parade.

The giant screen, which stands across the whole of the South Stand, is almost 100 meters long, 11 meters high and weighs 38 tonnes.

It will show the Queen formally open the Games when she reads out the message that has been hidden inside the baton.

Baton relay

The hand-written message was inserted by Queen, during a ceremony at Buckingham palace, on 9 October last year.

It was then sealed for its journey of more than 190,000 km through Commonwealth territories in Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America and the Caribbean.

Along the way it has been carried by thousands of baton bearers, some 4,000 in Scotland alone, amid a carnival atmosphere in cities, towns and villages around the globe.

The opening ceremony will be followed on Thursday by the first full day of events, including badminton, cycling and swimming.

Almost a million tickets have been sold for the sporting extravaganza, which will be controlled in a security operation led by Police Scotland.

Thousands of officers will be joined by about 2,400 members of the armed forces, prison officers and 17 private security firms.

An army of 15,000 specially-recruited civilian volunteers will be deployed in and around venues to aid athletes and spectators.

The £90m cost of security is being met from the overall Games budget of £472.3m.

New venues

That figure has helped pay for major upgrades in infrastructure across Glasgow.

Two of the showpiece venues to open in the past year include the £125m Hydro arena at the SECC complex, and the £113m National Indoor Sports Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, opposite Celtic Park.

The many agencies involved in delivering the Games hope it will leave a lasting legacy of economic, social, cultural, sporting and health-related improvement for Glasgow and Scotland.

Glasgow’s journey to become host city began in September 2004, when the city was selected over Edinburgh as the Scottish candidate city for the Games.

Glasgow was awarded the Games on 9 November 2007, at the Commonwealth Games Federation General Assembly in Colombo, Sri Lanka, seeing off rival Abuja, in Nigeria, in a head-to-head by 47 votes to 24.

Six years, eight months and 15 days later, Scotland’s largest city is finally ready to take centre stage as host of the Games.

BBC News