LONDON -- They don't give out golden trophies for producing the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, and Danny Boyle won't get to make an acceptance speech.
Which is too bad, because the acclaimed filmmaker's direction of Friday night's formal opening of the Summer Games here was a wonderful contemporary spectacle of extraordinary tone, production, and entertainment.
If there's been a superior Opening Ceremonies in terms of pure enjoyment, I must have missed it. Perhaps NBC is still waiting to air it on tape delay?
The three-hour-plus ceremony served as more than a beginning, for it was a celebration of so much that came before, of Great Britain's rich history, culture and tradition. Smoke stacks that rivaled sky scrapers in height and magnitude rose from the ground in homage to the age of industry. Children danced as a symbol of London's beloved Great Ormond Street Hospital. JK Rowling read "Peter Pan.''
But there was also humor in unexpected places -- Queen Elizabeth II made her acting debut in a short film featuring the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and appeared to parachute out of a helicopter. Rowan Atkinson -- the goofy Mr. Bean -- reinterpreted a classic scene in a classic film. The music was relentlessly spectacular, from the Beatles and the Who to Queen and the Sex Pistols.
And the athletes -- current, future, and present -- basked in the scene, particularly during the Parade of Nations. Even Kobe Bryant looked mesmerized by it all.
David Beckham proved an able boatman. Sir Steven Redgrave was prominent in the cauldron lighting, joined by seven children to represent the future. The only surprise was that Sir Roger Bannister, the odds-on favorite to light the cauldron, was nowhere to be found.
One disappointment must be acknowledged, though it was probably no fault of Boyle: a failure to acknowledge the Israeli athletes killed at the Munich Games 40 years ago. That belongs on the shoulders of the USOC.
The night, however, belonged to the British, and Boyle, who orchestrated it all. And in the end, he even had the perfect coda: Sir Paul McCartney, leading the crowd in a chorus of "Hey Jude.'' It was a flawless ending to a nearly flawless beginning. The Games have formally begun, and it couldn't have been better.