As Olympics open, Britain rocks {Washington Post}

by Anthony Faiola

LONDON — They rolled out dancing nurses and smokestacks, poked fun at their weather and gave us Mr. Bean. Amid green and pleasant pastures, they read from the storybook that is Britain, not just Shakespeare but Peter Pan and Harry Potter. And if the Opening Ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world’s biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know — and so often love — our culture nonetheless.

The themes showcased Britain, past, present and future, capturing the mind-set of a nation seeking to redefine itself through these Games after nearly a century of managed decline. A great empire, gone. Military might, ebbing. Sense of humor, very much intact. The message here seemed to honor the quite serious Olympics — which London is hosting for a record third time — while simultaneously reminding the world that the next two weeks should also be about having a bit of fun.

For an audience across the Atlantic, it seemed like the rock-and-roll Olympics, an event celebrating the shared culture of the English-speaking world — so much of it thanks to these relatively tiny isles. It was glam Britain (David Bowie). It was scary Britain (Voldemort). It was funny Britain (Monty Python). It was punk Britain (yes, they had mosh pits).

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