The Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies for the London Games hit a lot of highlights of British cultural history last night. They seemed to throw in as much as they could: the primitive, the glorious, the ingenious, and the droll, all of which combine to make Britain what it is.

They had James Bond meeting the queen, and the two of them pretending to parachute into the stadium. They had a Sex Pistols song and a Rolling Stones song and Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude. They had J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, reading from Peter Pan. They had the actor Kenneth Branagh dressed in a Charles Dickens outfit reading Shakespeare, a neat three-fer.

The only thing they were missing was the singer Tom Jones dressed as Charles Darwin reciting some of Isaac Newton's laws of physics. That would have been in keeping with the spirit of the show.

Four years ago in Beijing the Chinese seemed to be trying to express their grandeur and might and ability to organize thousands of people to march in lockstep (a perfect metaphor for the country itself).

What message were the British sending?

What I heard was:

"Well, we may not be as spectacular as Beijing, but we're far more interesting. And we have a sense of humor about ourselves -- something the Chinese have never been accused of.

"Oh, and by the way, we may not win as many medals as some of you larger countries, but let's face it: we've had a lot more geniuses."