Malala Yousafzai said the young athletes competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games were a reminder that “every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her wildest dreams”.

In a short but powerful message at the event’s opening ceremony, the activist and author said competitors represented millions of children and “our shared hope for the future”.

The 25 year-old Nobel Prize laureate, who was treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital in 2012 after she was shot in the head by the Taliban aged 15, paid tribute to those who had helped and supported her family.

“When I first came to this city, I had never heard its name but I would come to understand it through the doctors and nurses at the Queen Elizabeth hospital,” she said.

“Through the teachers who inspired me at school, helped my mother to learn English and taught my little brothers to drive.

“To the library of Birmingham, through the friends I have made, from my best friend Ellen, a life-long Brummy – to the families that have come here from Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Pakistan and beyond.”

She continued: “Tonight teams from 72 countries and territories join the people of Birmingham to celebrate friendship across borders.

“The young athletes who will compete over the next few weeks represent millions of girls and boys across the commonwealth – our shared hope for the future.

“A future where every child can go to school, where women are free to participate in society, where families can live in peace and in dignity.

“Over the next two weeks when we watch the incredible athletes of the commonwealth games, remember that every child deserves the chance to reach her full potential and pursue her wildest dreams.

“And now, it is my honour to say welcome to Birmingham.”

Following her recovery from the traumatic shooting, Ms Yousafzai became a prominent activist for the right to education, and started her charity the Malala fund.