It’s meant to be all about the athletes, a millennia-old tradition of welcoming competitors to the toughest endurance test of their lives.
Instead the Olympic Opening Ceremony has become a competition all of it’s own – each country competing with the one before to be the biggest, the best and the most compelling.
In the run-up to London 2012, we had glimpses of an EastEnders-style image of the Thames and a British village green that looked to have been borrowed from the set of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movie sitting squarely in the centre of the stadium.
Directed by Danny Boyle this year’s three-hour extravaganza was certainly compelling, with a beginning strangely reminiscent of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, a glowing gold Olympic logo fashioned after an Orc-style takeover of middle England in an attempt to recreate the industrial revolution.
Leading the action was Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel quoting Shakespeare, with surprise appearances by everyone from Evelyn Glennie, who judging by her costume may have come as Gandalf, to David Beckham in a speedboat to the Queen, who stunned the nation by leaping from a helicopter.
Continuing the evening with an eccentric “mash up” of British culture that felt like a psychedelic night of channel surfing between Eurovision and Glee, Boyle could be described as having taken the phrase ‘ a little something for everyone’ to a whole new level.
With only a brief pause to remember those killed on the July 7, 2005, only 24 hours after London had been accepted as the new Olympic hosts, the night continued with tributes to the great and the good of pop with the Athletes Parade supported by music from a host of very modern performers.
The competitors entering the stadium waving their flags to songs from performers like The Pet Shop Boys.
As the flags lined up on the hill that was at the heart of the opening green and pleasant scenes, the world waiting with bated breath for the cauldron to be lit by seven young athletes, all the frippery and disjointed narratives of the night fell away, leaving a 10,000-strong cohort of competitors waiting to tell their own stories in the coming weeks.