Opening ceremony something special

OKAY you don’t win gold medals for opening ceremonies, though the surge of pride which swept through the nation on Friday night was the perfect launching pad for the biggest show on earth to go ahead in London.

From John o’ Groats to Land’s End there was praise for an eagerly awaited event, even relief as everything fell into place for Danny Boyle and his team on what turned out to be a true ‘night to remember.’

There was flair in abundance for all to see, neatly entwined with a bold statement of much that has happened in this green and pleasant land over the years, not least the celebration of our NHS -

lest we forget the invention in 1944 of a service which is still the envy of the world.

The music was also a tribute to all those artists who have put British talent on the map, including the North-east’s best on the night. The performances we received from Evelyn Glennie and Emeli Sandie, far overshadowed the out-of-tune old man of pop.

Sadly Sir Paul McCartney’s performance was a jarring note on a night of near perfection, even if Her Majesty could have looked a little more cheerful during the opening ceremony,

Then again, after her exploits with James Bond, she was entitled to look a trifle worn out, not surprising perhaps for a woman of 86 years.

Sir Paul’s inadequacies were all the more galling, following as they did the seven young athletes who filled the air with an emotion almost tangible to even the large TV audience.

We will all have our favourite memories of the night, for indeed the choices were many and marvellous, with such a huge variety of events.

Thus the stage was set for the actual games themselves, made all the more exciting by obvious enthusiasm of the parading 204 teams.

Winning seemed so much less important after the watching the clear joy of those who will participate.

But then it was back to the business of competing in the 31 events on offer.

Sadly, Hannah Miley was not able to bring a first day medal back to Inverurie, but notwithstanding she gave us a swim and a speech to be proud of, confirming that just being there is a great honour for those taking part

Similarly Mark Cavendish’s team mates were unable to get him into a medal.

The BBC were not, however, very helpful to the two, weighing them down with unfair expectations and inordinate pressure. There is no divine right to a medal. We expect better of our pundits and commentators.

On the Sunday, there was unconfined joy for the nation when first Liz Armistead grabbed a silver in the women’s cycling road race, followed by a gutsy bronze for Rebecca Adlington in the pool with the hope of more to come later in the week.

Early days of the events have been spectacular, although the games are already a success for most fair-minded people who refused to buy into the wave of cynicism among some.

Just look at the politicians who are clamouring to get in on the act, a sure sign that things are going well.

But if you are looking for sensible, inspirational input, look no further than Jacques Rogge, the president of the Olympics committee, who sent out a strong message to the future, embracing all that is good, while warning of the dangers of drugs, equality of the sexes, raising the bar in a way that no politician ever could.

The Belgian count even made the case for the UK, which had it been delivered by one of our British politicians, or organisers would have been dismissed as indulgent.

“Sport is coming home tonight to a nation that has done so much for the development of world sport,” he said .

Oh, that the nation could grasp those words and run with them through the Millennium.

Next week we shall get a prominent local athletics coach’s view of the second week of the games, while hopefully recording the successes some of our 554 competitors have enjoyed - including those from the North - east.