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Thu Oct 23 15:48:51 SAST 2014

Games' glorious opening

Archie Henderson | 30 July, 2012 00:11

As we all know from what happened here in 1995, 2003 and 2010, it's always all right on the night.

London had been taking it on the chin for weeks before its night arrived on Friday.

From our man David Isaacson giving them grief after being given wrong directions when he was among the early arrivals at the Olympic Village, to Mitt Romney suggesting that the 2012 gig was not going to be as good as the one he organised, the Salt Lake City Winter Games 10 years before, the Brits presented their usual stiff upper lips to criticism.

The red-top tabloids, of course, were notable exceptions, the Sun calling the Republican candidate "Mitt the Twit" on page one.

"If only I'd waited until Friday night," Romney must still be ruing. He was after all on a three-nation tour - Poland and Israel were the other stopovers - to raise money and make friends.

His criticism turned out to be a huge political gaffe that the Democrats quickly exploited back in the US with the presidential election just four months away. Even that wily GOP strategist Karl Rove despaired of Romney's blunder - and he did it live on Fox News.

Michelle Obama was a better diplomatic example, getting into the spirit of the Games at the Olympic Village and even joining in a game of soccer at about the same time, Romney was grovelling to David Cameron. Not a great way to start the special relationship if he is to beat Barack Obama in November.

Romney would have won more friends (and probably collected more cash!) if he'd only waited 24 hours, as old friend Rob Nelson did.

Nelson represents the very opposite to the Ugly American. He was effusive in his praise on Saturday morning. "Hail Britannia" said his e-mail from the other side of the world. And who wouldn't be effusive after Danny Boyle's masterpiece Olympic opening brought together Queen Elizabeth, James Bond, Mr Bean and some sheep.

Rob, also known as The Other Lord Nelson, once played baseball in Cape Town for VOB as a match-winning left-arm pitcher. His father, a New York cop, when asked by neighbours where his son had gone, would reply: "He's hunting big game in Africa." The biggest games were against Goodwood Demons, Bellville and, possibly, Sea Point Cardinals.

He also played baseball in London, which explains his delight at the Brits pulling off an opening ceremony on Friday night that made Sydney 2000 look like a backyard Guy Fawkes and Beijing's cast of faceless thousands in 2008 appear turgid. Boyle used people we could all recognise, especially his piece de resistance, Mr Bean at the keyboard.

No wonder Rob, looking on from his home in Portland, Oregon, where he once played for a team owned by Kurt Russell's father when Mr Goldie Hawn was the bat boy, was impressed.

"My goodness. Great Britain at its greatest!" enthused Rob. "What an opening to the Olympics! Sacred, irreverent, fun, cheeky, inspirational, and unmistakably British. Classic and wonderful.

"I could not be more happy and proud of all of my brothers and sisters across the pond. You guys kicked arse! Well played . well played, indeed."

The Brits certainly deserve lavish praise for their operation and they have got us all, or many of us, caught up in an Olympics that is turning out to be brilliant. They deserve every bit of the praise that's coming their way.

We might even be willing to support, at this late stage, Boris Johnson's hope that the Wall Game will be introduced to the Games.

The mayor of London, a former tighthead prop and Eton pupil, had - frivolously, perhaps - hoped to introduce the Wall Game to the London Games.

The game, a bizarre combination of rugby and soccer, is played at Eton on a strip of ground 5m by 110m (called "the furrow") alongside a slightly curved wall that was built in 1717.

It is the most important match of the year at Eton and is played on StAndrew's Day (November 30). It consists of pushing, shoving and scrumming (called a "bully").

Actual punching is not allowed and few people outside Eton understand the rules.

Super rugby refs would know the feeling.

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