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Commonwealth Games open in Scotland

Athletes from 71 nations have begun the 20th Commonwealth Games in Scotland. A minute of the opening ceremony was dedicated in silence to victims of the Malaysia Airlines disaster over Ukraine.

Queen Elizabeth II opened 11 days of contest involving 4,500 athletes during a colorful ceremony at Glasgow's Celtic Park stadium. The televised 3-hour opening was watched by an estimated one billion people worldwide.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond asked the capacity crowd of 40,000 to observe one minute's silence for the victims of the airliner shot down over war-torn eastern Ukraine last Thursday.

Eighty-two or almost a third of the 298 people who died while flying with Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were from the British-bonded Commonwealth, including 44 from Malaysia and 27 from Australia.

Malaysian team wears armbands

Malaysian athletes entered the Glasgow stadium carrying their flag at half-mast and wore black armbands. India had entered first as hosts of the last games in 2010.

The ceremony featured Scottish heritage, including a giant haggis and whiskey barrels, followed by live performances from world-renowned signers Rod Steward and Susan Boyle and the Pipes and Drums of the Scottish Regiment.

The team of the host region displayed Scotland's blue and white flag (pictured).

Independence referendum

Organizers of the opening ceremony made light of

Scotland's referendum

due on September 18 on whether the region should seek independence from London-based rule within the current United Kingdom.

The 88-year-old monarch reminded the Commonwealth of its "shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family."

Over the next 11 days, 4,500 athletes will compete in 261 medal events in 17 sports. These include swimming, cycling and wrestling as well as non-Olympic sports such as lawn bowls and squash.

ipj/jr (dpa, AP, AFP)

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