It was a Triumph. After the Chinese display of might, with all the artistic integrity of a Red-Square parade of missile launchers, we got a fun, irreverent pop-concert from the UK.
After the Royal Wedding and the Jubilee, the world knows this moist North Atlantic archipelago can do pomp and circumstance. What this extravaganza showed the world is that a lot of the rock n roll which defines western civilisation is British, as is much of the technological and industrial inventions which make the modern world as it is. Britain is not a stuffy old country, we’re fun. Come here and get pissed with us.
I could have done without the NHS love-in but that’s by the by. The people are proud of our hospitals being state-owned, despite the fact they lead the world only in hospital acquired infections. Most artists are pinkos. I can live with their eccentricities, if they show the world that Britain is more than Guardsmen outside palaces. So what DID the world make of it?
Then there was the symbolism of the copper leaves, each nation contributing a small part, coming together into a magnificent whole the sum of which is greater and brighter than the sum of its parts. The tiny nations like Tuvalu sending a couple of Athletes stand equal to the mighty Americans or Chinese teams. Nations who exist in a state of war may end up competing in a spirit of friendship.
The scourge of international war is receding. For all the corporate bullshit, the Olympic games are part of a process that’s bringing the world together to trade, compete and enjoy a diversity of cultures to the benefit of all. Britain has played a huge part in this process, even though we remain the most warlike nation on the planet.
Far from being a declining power, What the Olympic ceremony showed is a country at ease in its own skin, comfortable with a bit of self-mockery, happy to take risks. No other country would think to put its octogenarian head of state in a skit with James Bond, and have Mr. Bean ruin ‘Chariots of Fire’ for Sir Simon Rattle. Our soft power, from the BBC world service, and musicians to businessmen and scientists still matter on the world stage.
The final motif of Sir Steve Redgrave handing the torch to another generation of young Athletes, was well judged. Then Sir Paul McCartney got everyone participating – in a chorus of ‘Hey Jude’ Not a great chest-beating roar of a rising power but a celebration of the real Olympic spirit. Having lit the torch, everyone joined in, in Friendship, peace and competition.