Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

“Very much connected.” It was a key phrase in the Queen’s Message delivered at the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast last night. 

It was an apposite phrase too for the Queen's Baton containing the Message, which had, for several awkward seconds, refused to yield as the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation Louise Martin sought to open it and pass the words of wisdom over to the waiting Prince Charles, standing in for his mother.

"The ancient stories told by the people of Australia tell us that even though we are far away, we are all very much connected," the Prince was eventually able to announce, setting the 21st Commonwealth Games in motion.

One imagines Martin, years from now, describing to a therapist how she has a recurring dream in which she is being watched by millions of people all over the world and looking into the increasingly troubled face of Royalty as she struggles to perform a vital task before waking up and realising it has really happened…

That said, with chairman of Gold Coast 2018 Peter Beattie almost falling backwards off the dais with laughter, the incident was something of an advert for what was originally known as the "Friendly Games". It's hard to imagine an Olympic faux pas being received in similarly relaxed fashion.

Peter Beattie, chairman of Gold Coast 2018, sees the funny side as CGF President Louise Martin is finally able to free the Queen's message for the waiting Prince Charles during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images
Peter Beattie, chairman of Gold Coast 2018, sees the funny side as CGF President Louise Martin is finally able to free the Queen's message for the waiting Prince Charles during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images

Inevitably, minds went back to the weirdly similar occurrence at the last Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Glasgow four years ago, when the then President of the CGF, Prince Imran of Malaysia, actually managed to cut his thumb open as he struggled for 30 seconds or so to release the Queen’s Message from the Baton that had just been passed over to him by Sir Chris Hoy.

The beefy cyclist had attempted to help in the operation as the Prince, who insisted afterwards that he had practised opening the Baton "two or three times", continued not to do the trick.

The Queen gave little away as she awaited - and eventually received - her own Message.

"I had a little bit of a problem, there was a little bit of collateral damage," the Prince said at the next day’s media briefing. "I cut my thumb on that wonderful piece of Scottish engineering, but it was my fault. I’m not sure Chris Hoy helped but all’s well that ends well. I raised a laugh."

At such moments, however, laughter tends to be of the nervous variety as time elongates and visions rise of hurtful headlines and historical ignominy.

The 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics both endured embarrassing glitches as they got underway. In Vancouver, four columns were supposed to rise from the ground to form a point that would be lit by four Canadian sportsmen and women. Only three did so, leaving Catriona LeMay Doan to improvise.

In Sochi there was a minor but obvious problem with the five rings that lit up at a key part of the Ceremony - the fifth was not fully formed, remaining obstinately concentrated like a snow crystal.

Rarely, however, can there have been such an awkward Opening Ceremony moment as occurred in Australia 18 years ago as the Sydney Olympics got underway.

Cathy Freeman lifts the Torch aloft at Sydney 2000 after setting light to the ring of fire that - eventually after a long delay - moved up to become part of the Olympic Cauldron ©Getty Images
Cathy Freeman lifts the Torch aloft at Sydney 2000 after setting light to the ring of fire that - eventually after a long delay - moved up to become part of the Olympic Cauldron ©Getty Images

On that occasion the hiatus lasted four minutes. An age in Opening Ceremony Standard Time. And even more nerve-racking given that the glitch left the woman who would later deliver a glorious 400 metres gold, Cathy Freeman, standing within a ring of fire.

Freeman, chosen as the final torchbearer partly because of the potent symbolism of her being of  Aboriginal heritage, made her way up a set of steps to the centre of a shallow pool before applying the flame to a submerged gas ring that encircled her.

As she then stood statue-still with the torch held high, spotlights dazzling off her white bodysuit, nothing happened. And continued to happen.

I was watching from the Sydney 2000 Media Centre. Conversation began to buzz over whether Freeman was in actual danger during what looked horribly like turning into the greatest malfunction in Games history.

Barry Davies, commentating for the BBC, recalls saying, early on, "What an anti-climax!" But that was before the belated take off which saw the lit circle rise around and then clear of the standing athlete before ratcheting its way up to where it integrated with another section to form the Olympic Cauldron.

While the Sydney incident turned out okay in the end, another Olympic Cauldron moment, 12 years earlier in Seoul, produced a gruesome result.

When the Cauldron was lit the flames incinerated a number of doves that had been released into the Olympic Stadium a little earlier in the Opening Ceremony and had perched nearby.

Doves were subsequently barred from any future Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

Forty years earlier they had formed a successful element of the Opening Ceremony at London 1948 after being released from wicker baskets on a swelteringly hot afternoon.

The Union flag behind which the British team marched at the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games had been provided at the last minute by Roger Bannister, who had had to smash a car window with a brick to retrieve it ©Getty Images
The Union flag behind which the British team marched at the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games had been provided at the last minute by Roger Bannister, who had had to smash a car window with a brick to retrieve it ©Getty Images

But that Opening Ceremony might have been remembered for a hugely embarrassing reason - the home team marching without a flag - had it not been for the swift thinking of 19-year-old Roger Bannister, already a promising athlete.

Six years before he broke the four minute mile, Bannister broke a car window with a brick outside Wembley Stadium – in order to retrieve a spare Union flag from the back of an official’s vehicle.

For whatever reason, when all the flags of nations had arrived at the Stadium, it was swiftly established that the host’s was missing.

"Panic," Bannister later recalled. "The commandant said to me, 'Roger, go and find that flag which is at the back of my car in the car park.’ So we tore back in a jeep, hooting to get the various spectators out of the way.

“We found the car, but had no key. So I took a brick and smashed the window. A policeman who was in charge saw, and an army sergeant had to restrain him and say what we were doing."

Bannister’s innate speed came in useful as he managed to get the smaller, makeshift flag to the team just as the procession into the Stadium was beginning.

"So there we are," he said. "My small contribution to the 1948 Olympics."