The Olympic opening ceremony was neither a nostalgic sweep through the past nor a bold vision of a brave new future, Sarah Lyall says:
Rather, it was a sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948.
Britain was so poor then that it housed its athletes in old army barracks, made them bring their own towels and erected no buildings for the Games. The Olympics cost less than £750,000, turned a small profit and made the nation proud that it had managed to rise to the occasion in the face of such adversity.
The ceremony reflected the deeply left-leaning sensibilities of Danny Boyle:
It pointedly included trade union members among a parade of people celebrating political agitators from the past, a parade that also included suffragists, Afro-Caribbean immigrants who fought for minority rights, and the Jarrow hunger marchers, who protested against unemployment in 1936.