This was down only in small measure to the quirky grandeur of the décor, featuring inter alia a collection of Dutch and Flemish 17th century oil paintings, some featuring winter sports, and a sign in the gents warning that "whosoever eats and drinks in this hall with his hat on shall forfeit six pence or ride the wooden horse".
It boiled down to this: the event was supposed to be the ceremonial equivalent of the firing of a starting pistol, or the ringing of the bell denoting the final lap; yet, owing to the surprise withdrawal last month of Edmonton, Durban's expected rival, this was the starting pistol for a one horse race.
In the circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the occasion felt drained of dramatic tension.
The lack of opposition is one of a number of reasons why it is valid to feel a measure of apprehension as this city beside the Indian Ocean sets out along the path that will in all likelihood lead it in seven years' time to be the first African Commonwealth Games host.
Without the leverage afforded by a choice of cities, after all, will the event owner have the negotiating clout to insist on standards that will help the city show itself to best advantage when the international spotlight falls upon it?
With so many other spending priorities, will the South African Government, seeing the prize almost in the bag, be tempted to restrict its own commitments to the bare minimum?
I wonder too if the project will be able to stay insulated from political tensions, national and local, which I sense, albeit from afar and with no more than the most superficial notion of what is driving them, are starting to build.
I was also left cold by how overtly the bid is already playing the Nelson Mandela card: the Opening Ceremony, we were told, is targeted for July 18, the great man's birthday; a thin, eight-page summary began with the "Sport has the power to change the world" quotation.
Yes, he was the greatest statesman of my lifetime, but if you try too assiduously to wrap yourself in Mandela's aura, you are looking backwards, not ahead.
One thing, however, I feel very little apprehension about is this city's capacity to cope with the project.
This is partly because, as I have written in the past, its central, beach-front zone - where most Commonwealth Games action would take place - is particularly well mapped out for big sporting events.
And it is partly because - and this is what I really wanted to write about - the Games plan leaves the city with remarkably little in terms of preparatory work to do, given that they have a seven-year lead-time.
With the accident-prone 2022 Winter Olympic race and Agenda 2020 and the subsequent re-think of Tokyo 2020's venue plans, we have been spending an awful lot of time in recent months thinking and writing about sustainability and the importance of avoiding new-build unless there is a long-term, preferably inspirational, justification.
Well, this must be, by a margin, the most sustainable multi-Games plan I have ever seen; so much so that I would be tempted to sell it (to some audiences) as ideal for these parsimonious, straitened times.
I think I am right in saying that the only new sports venue required would be for shooting, at Bluff Military Base.
The overall budget, at some ZAR6 billion (£332.5 million/$511.7 million/€456.4 million), includes ZAR1.5 billion (£83 million/$128 million/€114 million) for the Games Village, which would become housing units, and well over a further ZAR1 billion (£55.5 million/$85 million/€76 million) for preparing the home team.
There are other venues which, I suspect, would require quite extensive renovation: such as the beach-front Rachel Finlayson swimming pool, which I was told was tidal and is listed as salt water and unheated, and perhaps the exhibition centre.
But these sites have already shown that they have a demonstrable public utility.
If you are wondering, incidentally, (as I was) about Rachel Finlayson, she was a swimming coach, known as Ma Fin, who accompanied the South African team to the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
What has made this almost minimalist plan possible - apart from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which led to construction of the magnificent but hugely extravagant Moses Mabhida Stadium - is the flexibility of the Commonwealth Games sports programme; this has just 10 core sports and four core Para-sports, with hosts topping these up with a few more from an optional list.
Such a system enables cities such as Durban to tailor the content of the Games, in large measure, to facilities they already have and hence to steer clear of constructing costly specialist venues such as a canoe slalom course or, in Durban's case, a velodrome that they clearly think would be tough to justify.
Yes, no track cycling for the first time at a Commonwealth Games since 1930 would be a pity; then again, velodromes seem to have been popping up like mushrooms lately, from Toronto to Ashgabat.
Durban's construction-light multi-games plan makes me wonder, in turn, whether, if the current spending-averse mood persists, the International Olympic Committee might not itself need to consider allowing Olympic host-cities more discretion in the sports they sign up to stage.
Agenda 2020 does permit Organising Committees to propose one or more additional, one-off events.
But there is nowhere near the flexibility offered by the Commonwealth Games Federation, and this has contributed in the past to some of those dreaded Olympic white elephants.
It might also be argued that, with every sport under the sun these days having its own world championship - which was certainly not the case in Baron de Coubertin's time - it is no longer really necessary for every Olympic Games to attempt to be quite so comprehensive in scope.
In all likelihood, the current, rather grumpy, public mood will turn out to be cyclical and the world will move on before such notions need seriously to be entertained.
As I sat down to write this, however, my eye was caught by the headline of an article by an International Sporting Press Association (AIPS) young reporter, Timothy Olobulu.
This piece quoted Lassana Palenfo, respected President of the African National Olympic Committees Association (ANOCA), as suggesting it was "almost impossible" for an African city successfully to host almost 30 different sports and tens of thousands of athletes, media professionals and spectators.
"You cannot have people dying of hunger and you host the Olympics," he was quoted as saying.
Indeed you cannot; but, hard as life is, there are nonetheless many African nations which are not so afflicted.
A more flexible sports programme would help make the dream less remote - as Durban 2022 may be about to show us.