Welcome ceremonies are being held for teams at Gold Coast 2018 ©ITG

Many of the Commonwealth Games teams have already set-up camp in the Athletes' Village here, but their arrival is not considered official until they have taken part in a welcome ceremony.

For Gold Coast 2018, this welcome draws on the rich traditions of the Yugambeh, the indigenous people of the Gold Coast. 

The dances of welcome are performed by four members of the Mununjali tribe, all from the same family.

"Today you are standing on sacred country," troupe leader Jared Fogarty told teams attending the ceremonies.

As the red, black and gold Aboriginal flag flew alongside those of Australia and the Commonwealth Games Federation above the arena, the four performers opened the ceremony with a dance of welcome which has its roots in the dawn of indigenous civilisation.

This was followed by another sequence to show how the Gold Coast was created.

"We have been given permission to create a contemporary dance to a story, which is a very old story," said Fogarty. 

"We rehearsed it in our town for 20 hours straight and then came here and rehearsed for another four hours to get it to where it is on stage."

They will not have to reprise the routine 71 times as many of the welcome ceremonies feature more than one nation or territory, but the troupe are set to be on stage at least twice a day over the next week before they give additional performances at the Village during the Games, which open on April 4.

"It's like doing a gym work-out, the back of my legs are quite sore and I don't even do as much dancing as the other boys," Fogarty added.

After the traditional dancing came a surprise. 

A volunteer from the crowd was called forward to have his palm pressed with ochre, the soil of the region.

"Ochre can be considered a gift, it is part of the land of the Yugambeh peoples, so me placing that on the back of their hand is a way of letting the land know that these people have arrived," said Fogarty.

Ochre is smeared on the hands as part of the ceremonies ©ITG
Ochre is smeared on the hands as part of the ceremonies ©ITG

The flags for each team welcomed were raised with military precision by a colour party comprising of the three arms of the Australian services.

The athletes watched from deckchairs as lifeguards appeared from a gleaming vintage camper van very similar to that seen at Buckingham Palace at the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay in March last year.

A group of dancers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and retro swimwear joined a jive number which celebrated the beach life of the region. 

This included the familiar red and yellow flags which indicate safe bathing areas, hoola hoops and a giant beach ball. 

In a grand finale, the four indigenous dancers returned to join in.

"I enjoy watching the swing dancers first, they give us a bit of a hype," said Fogarty. 

"I really enjoy dancing because for the first act, I am mainly just singing. 

"I prefer the dancing because I enjoy performing with my brothers and my cousins."

Village co-Mayors Sara Carrigan, the 2004 Olympic cycling road race champion, and swimmer Mark Stockwell, a Commonwealth Games 4x100 metres freestyle relay champion at Edinburgh 1986, told athletes: "I am sure you will enjoy this unique experience."

Each team received a commemorative indigenous shield, designed to protect them during their time on the Gold Coast. 

In return, the South African team offered a decorated vuvuzela, the trumpet like instrument which became very familiar at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Others welcomed included the team from Australia's near neighbours New Zealand.

Some 180 attended their ceremony, the largest contingent so far. 

Smaller teams included Mozambique, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Helena who flew direct to the Games for the first time. 

There had been no airport on the island until October 2017, and a five-day sea journey to the nearest airport had previously been needed.

"It was truly amazing, a once in a lifetime opportunity, we are in the big leagues now," said St Helena swimmer Duwaine Yon.

"It was very historical and eye-opening as well to get the culture of the local area."

Members of the Saint Helena delegation at Gold Coast 2018 ©ITG
Members of the Saint Helena delegation at Gold Coast 2018 ©ITG

For their team, involvement in this ceremony was doubly important. 

Adverse weather had prevented the arrival of the Queen's Baton Relay on the Atlantic island.

That particular omission will be rectified on Monday (April 2) when representatives of the island will be Batonbearers when it arrives on the Gold Coast.

"We've only got four-and-a-half thousand people so for us being in the Commonwealth Games is huge," said team official Anne Dillon.

"’It provides an opportunity for many of our athletes to participate in the international arena. 

"It is good for all of our sports, it's good for youngsters aspiring to do what these guys are doing here.

"We've met a number of people on the Sunshine Coast who've googled Saint Helena because they didn't know where it was."

Officials have confirmed that the entire St Helena team will march in the Opening Ceremony.

"That's the time when friends and family watching on television know that they will see us," said Dillon. 

"When we walk into that arena, Saint Helena, that's us."