Shirtless Tongan athlete steals show at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

·Sports Editor
·3 min read
Tonga and Samoa, pictured here with shirtless athletes during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.
Tonga and Samoa both had shirtless athletes during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Image: Getty

The Commonwealth Games kicked off last night in Birmingham to a riot or colour.

As the athletes filed into Alexander Stadium, one country's representatives caught the eye (once again) as Tonga continued its tradition of having an oiled-up, shirtless flag bearer lead the team.

In 2016, Pita Taufatofua became a viral sensation at the Olympics in Rio when he carried the Tongan flag at the opening ceremony while shirtless.

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He then repeated the trick at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Flag bearers of Team Tonga, pictured here leading their team during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.
Flag bearers of Team Tonga lead their team during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

While Taufatofua isn't in attendance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Tonga still continued their tradition of having a shirtless flag bearer on Thursday night.

This time it was captain of the Rugby 7's men's team, Sione Tupou, who led out the delegation alongside weightligher Kuinini Manumu'a, who was wearing Tongan "fine mats" attire - special finely woven mat.

A Samoan athlete also ditched his shirt as he marched with his teammates, with fans reacting in hilarious fashion on social media.

An athlete of Team Samoa, pictured here walking around the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.
An athlete of Team Samoa walks around the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Opening ceremony kicks off Commonwealth Games

Local musical heroes Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi guest-starred on a night which celebrated Birmingham’s industrial heritage and its multicultural tradition, as competitors from the Commonwealth’s 72 nations and territories were cheered into the arena by a 30,000 crowd.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in style, driving into the venue in an Aston Martin as part of a convoy of 72 cars which formed a Union Jack when viewed from above.

Charles later officially declared the 22nd edition of the Games open, with a spectacular fireworks display bringing the ceremony to an end and heralding the start of the world’s first major multi-sport event to take place free of Covid-19 restrictions since the pandemic took hold.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends the 2022 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Alexander Stadium on July 28, 2022 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Prince Charles arrives in style. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Performers and spectators look on as fireworks are set off during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.
Fireworks lit up the sky at the Alexander Stadium. (PA)

Charles delivered The Queen’s message to the Commonwealth Games. In it, she said the Games “remind us of our connection with one another, wherever we may be in the world, as part of the Commonwealth family of nations”.

The Queen’s message described Birmingham as “a pioneering city which has drawn in and embraced so many throughout its history”.

“It is a city symbolic of the rich diversity and unity of the Commonwealth, and one which now welcomes you all in friendship,” the message said.

Denise Lewis OBE carries the baton during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.
Denise Lewis OBE carries the baton during the opening ceremony. (PA)
Malala Yousafzai during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.
Malala Yousafzai during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday July 28, 2022.

The ceremony also featured an appearance from activist Malala Yousafzai. The 25-year-old, who now lives in Birmingham, campaigns and raises funds for girls’ education programmes in her native Pakistan.

More than 5,000 athletes will compete in 280 events across 19 sports in the 10 days coming up, with a para sport programme integrated into the Games. It will also be the first major multi-sport games to award more medals to women than men – 136 and 134.

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