On a balmy summer evening at the modern Wroclaw Stadium, a capacity 40,000 crowd turned Wroclaw into Rocklaw, as The World Games was declared open by IOC President Thomas Bach. An Opening Ceremony full of vigour and enthusiasm saw the athletes and family of The World Games welcomed to the beautiful regional capital of Silesia in Poland.
The ceremony kicked off with an energetic orchestra suspended above the giant multi-coloured letter “W” logo of The World Games. Lights flashed and enormous banners featuring cuddly dwarves and prominent landmarks of Wroclaw soon covered the pitch. The dwarves are a source of pride to the residents of Wroclaw, their statues appear in every elegant square and not quite so elegant souvenir shops of the host city.
As a gospel singer clad in white sang, a video in the background showcased many of the beautiful venues dotted across Wroclaw, which will make the Polish city such a suitable host of The World Games. We then went from white to Snow White, as a dance troupe dressed as dwarves performed an energetic and colourful routine, which was clearly appreciated by the enthusiastic crowd in the stadium.
As Steve Nash and The Turntable Orchestra (his band of seven DJs) performed their set, the athletes were led into the stadium. They were fronted by Albania, the dwarf dancers continued to cavort, to provide a memorable welcome to the teams. Though he was the only athlete present for his country and thus by default the flagbearer, the person representing Bosnia and Herzegovina gave a big grin as he walked to his assigned place. Colombia have brought a sizeable delegation of athletes, the last host country of the The World Games clearly enjoyed their experience so much, that they want their athletes to continue to experience the magic of the Games. Altogether 111 nations have sent athletes to the World Games. It is fantastic to see countries such as El Salvador, Ethiopia and Haiti take their place as equals along France and Italy. Italy has enjoyed lots of success in recent editions of The World Games and will be hoping to replicate that winning feeling here in Poland. Japan meanwhile must hope they have not peaked too early, their flying disc team waved with their frisbees in their hands. Bravo French New Caledonia, even getting to Poland is a magnificent achievement.
A massive roar greeted the arrival of Ukraine, who looked resplendent in their smart white suits, However there was only ever going to be one nation that would attract the largest cheer of the evening. The crowd duly went wild as Poland made their triumphal entrance. The Poles have the largest team at The World Games and will be hopeful of providing many more reasons to cheer during the coming days of competition.
Mascots Hansel and Gretel then led out the guests of honour, IOC President Thomas Bach, International World Games Association President Jose Perurena and the Mayor of Wroclaw, Rafał Dutkiewicz, who welcomed everyone to his beautiful city.
Bach said Dobry vieczor (good evening) and concluded his remarks with Do widzenia (goodbye in Polish) much to the delight of the locals packing the Wroclaw Stadium. In between, he stated that,
“It is great to be back in Poland with your great sporting history. Sport has the power to bring people together. The World Games continue to be a great event to deepen the popularity of so many sports and to promote a healthy life style.”
It was then President Perurena's turn to speak. “It is great to be here in this beautiful and historic city. You athletes have been training very hard, even if you do not win a medal you will have great memories and meet new friends.”
Dr Bach then declared The World Games 2017 open to rapturous cheers from the crowd, and a spirited rendition of “March, March Dabrowski” the Polish national anthem followed. After the swearing of oaths to compete in a fair manner were made by Polish athletes, coaches and officials; “Run” the official song of The World Games was performed by Varius Manx and Kasia Stankiewicz.
Samba dancers and energetic American footballers strutted their stuff on the two main stages, whilst a video presentation was made of the 27 sports of The World Games plus the four invitational sports chosen by the host nation, which include Speedway and American Football. The samba dancers gave way to ballet performers who were then in turn superseded by rock'n'rollers. As the giant video screen replayed key moments from Wroclaw's history, two giant banners were unfurled proclaiming the city’s values of “Art and Culture” and “Freedom and Respect” .
The Wroclaw Stadium then pulsated with light and energy, as the multitude of performers sung and swayed, and acrobats were hoisted into the air. A rousing rendition of “We Are the Champions” concluded with a human pyramid lifting high the flag of The World Games, which was brandished enthusiastically. The whole stadium was then invited to get up and dance. The Polish athletes ignored their coaches’ advice to conserve energy and jumped on the main stage to join in the party. The musicians and dancers did an amazing job in creating an electric opening night atmosphere. Now it is over to the real stars of The World Games 2017: athletes it is your turn to shine!