London's opening ceremony proves that nobody does it better
WELL that's that then. Proof, if proof were really needed, that nobody does it better, writes James Toney.
SPECTACULAR: The Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony summed up what makes Britain great as it charted the vast and broad cultural history
This was an evening when a country looked into itself and found out what it really stood for, where cynicism drained away and optimism took over.
It won't last of course, but it will be nice while it does.
This was an evening to ask - do we shirk away from challenges because they are hard? Do we turn our back and look inwards when we've got so much to offer?
This country is the cradle of modern sport, it gave the world the internet, the Sex Pistols, Eastenders, a diamond Queen who actually can act, Danny Boyle and Our Greatest Team.
This was an evening where we could explore what defines us. Where it was okay for our stiff upper lips to wobble.
It was a night where the gentle slap of leather on willow on the village green could effortlessly mix with hardcore house music, where we could pay tribute to our green and pleasant land and our status as the forge of the industrial age.
This was an evening where we could laugh, we could cry, we could look forward, we could remember, we could leave the disciplined chorus of cynics on the sidelines and take the stage.
Beijing gave us a ceremony that redefined epic but London's opening redefined intimate.
It was like watching a live film - the stadium audience was engaged from opening act to closing surprise.
There was a narrative that drew you in, kept your attention and made you feel like you were sat in the second row of the Odeon.
Boyle also got his music selection spot on. From the stirring Nimrod, Jerusalem and Abide With Me to a mash-up of tunes from the sixties to current day.
Even Her Majesty might have just tapped one of her trademark two-inch heels along with Dizzee Rascal because this was like being at a disco with 80,000 people on the same legal happy drug.
Perhaps this was also a night when people might consider that Great Britain really is greater because of the sum of its parts. Perhaps for these two weeks we won't be English, Scots, Irish and Welsh and we'll finally realise that together we are stronger.
Of course it cost a lot of money in difficult times - £27 million to be precise, about the same as Cesc Fabregas or eight million less than Andy Carroll.
And perhaps it was a little parochial, the vast majority of the watching world audience might have got a bit lost when Sally from Coronation Street made a brief appearance, but we've paid for this party, £9.3 billion and counting, so surely they can indulge their hosts?
Of course, not everyone liked it, they claimed it was more political than Beijing with it's left-wing undertones and homage to the National Health Service and union workers and it's fair to say that Boyle probably doesn't vote for Seb Coe's blue team.
Another thing Britain gave the world is free speech by the way, although the misplaced twitterings of rent-a-quote MP Aidan Burley might have more value if he hadn't been sacked from his government position for giving a Nazi salute and praising the Third Reich at his best friend's stag party.
The flame ignited in Stratford will now cast its glow on 10,000 athletes with 10,000 inspirational stories of struggle and hardship, triumph and success.
Simple maths dictates there will be more tears than cheers, but if you were British athlete, would you now find that extra one percent or one tenth of a second when your time comes?
However, the light from this night could illuminate this country for decades to come - it could define us more than any gold, silver or bronze.
We're Britain. We're ready and you're very welcome.
© Sportsbeat 2012