Being a Jewish boy, I have always had ambivalent feelings about England (and the UK) even though I have spent lots of time there and adore the culture. They don’t like us much. (And the acquiescence Friday to a demand by the Lebanese judo team for a physical separation from the Israeli judo team at the practice gym was evidence that this continues. Yes, it was an Olympic committee decision, but it was in London, for crissakes. C’mon.)
But I have to say that the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics was a smash that only the Brits could have pulled off. It made the opening of the Beijing Olympics look stodgy and, well, communistic in all its repetitive tedium.
The London event had class. It had wit and it had genuine pathos, something never seen before, as far as I know, at an Olympic opening ceremony. The English are the world’s masters of self-mocking irony and, since Shakespeare, the masters of theatre as well. The mise en scene of the Industrial Revolution was nothing short of brilliant, the arrival of the Queen via parachute from a James Bond helicopter a coup de theatre so fabulous it was reason by itself to hope there will always be an England. (And more royal corgis!)
Bravo, director Danny Boyle, already in the top ranks of directors from Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting. You have outdone yourself here.
Bravo, Kenneth Branagh, you’re not Olivier but you’re close enough.
Bravo, Mr. Bean, the hugely funny Rowan Atkinson, who made us laugh with a parody of Chariots of Fire, completely apropos for the Olympics, succeeding with the most personal of comedy, the smallest of looks, in a gigantic venue.
Bravo, Tim Berners-Lee for what you gave us (www.pjmedia.com, among a zillion other examples) and Al Gore did not.
And most of all, of course, bravo SIR Paul McCartney because you are SIR Paul McCartney and changed our lives more than any politician. You can close any ceremony as long as you live — and I hope that’s long.
And hurray for all the athletes in your colorful costumes, the well-designed and the stinkers. My favorite: Cameroon.