Tan Tan, Saga Boy steal the show – Colourful opening to Commonwealth Youth Games

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

COUNTRY DANCE: Dancers holding a rendition of the flags of the various countries participating in the 17th Commonwealth Youth Games proceed along the track in the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday during the grand opening of the games. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

“ONE of the best opening ceremonies I have ever seen,” were the words of Commonwealth Games president Dame Louis Martin during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo on Friday.

After years of preparation, the games kicked off in colourful style with Carnival costumes and soca music filling the air as over 1,000 athletes from 70 countries were cheered on by the spectators who filled the covered section at the venue.

TT’s Carnival culture was on full display with masqueraders in costume prancing across the track at the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Youth Games on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

The Prime Minister and many Government officials including Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe attended the opening.

Former TT Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis, who was at the helm when TT was chosen to host the games years ago, was most present.

Martin, in her short address, thanked all those who made the games possible.

“Thank you for everything you have done to get us here,” she said.

President Christine Kangaloo declared the games open. “I have the easiest and most pleasant task today,” she said.

Prior to Martin’s speech and the official opening of the games by Kangaloo, traditional Carnival characters paraded in front the covered section. Baby Dolls, Midnight Robbers, the Dame Lorraine and Fancy Indians helped give spectators a history of Carnival, before pretty mas costumes joined the ceremony.

PATRIOTIC: A girl proudly waves her flag as she was on hand to give her support to TT’s athletes who are participating in the Commonwealth Youth Games which opened on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Spectators got a further lesson on the history of Carnival as the Canboulay Riots were explained. In the 1880s colonial police tried to prevent people from celebrating Carnival.

The tradition of East Indian culture was then expressed through dance which the crowd appreciated as they cheered, before the variety of races in TT was mentioned.

Extempo king Brian London then delivered a message about the Commonwealth, through song.

Children are the focus during the games as the majority of the performers were youngsters.

It was a constant flow of entertainment as Soca king Machel Montano’s music was played multiple times which may have introduced many of the athletes to soca music.

Tan Tan and Saga Boy were certainly a highlight of the opening as they had the crowd in awe. The characters, created by mas legend Peter Minshall, are huge free flowing human like costumes controlled by real people. When Tan Tan and Saga Boy started to dance with each other the crowd was in a frenzy.

At 4.40 pm, all the participating countries entered the venue one by one.

The Cayman Islands team as they were introduced during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Youth Games on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Soca music was blasting on the speakers as the athletes, between 14 and 18, were cheered on.

All the countries were celebrated, but when the TT athletes were announced the loudest cheer of the ceremony was heard.

A costume, with the TT colours red, white, black, led the athletes onto the running track.

The TT athletes were jumping and dancing led by flag bearers Nikoli Blackman and Janae De Gannes. Blackman is a swimmer and De Gannes will represent TT in athletics.

TT PRIDE: Members of the TT contingent wave mini flags as they are introduced during the grand opening of the Commonwealth Youth Games on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

The games mascot, created by nine year old Djibril Annisette, was introduced. Annisette, who created the leatherback turtle named Cocoyea, also joined in on the celebrations.

Annisette won the mascot design competition earlier this year.

Local singing group FreeTown Collective closed the show with a performance, while being joined by the athletes.

Cudjoe, who spoke at the start of the opening ceremony, was elated to see people from around the world in TT.

“I warmly welcome you to TT.”

She said it has been a journey, saying, “Today we celebrate the collaborative effort by so many people who have been committed to the cause from day one.”

Cudjoe thanked the Commonwealth Games Federation for choosing TT to host the games, along with the TT Commonwealth Games Federation and all those who made this moment possible.

The events will kick off on Saturday with cycling at the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva from 9 am-1 pm and in Tobago, beach volleyball will be held from 10 am- 12.30 pm and then from 3.30 pm-6 pm.

Dancers in full Carnival costume dance during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Youth Games on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle