On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Fun-filled start to the Games

Taking the world on a quick run through Britain’s rich history – from an agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse to showcasing its cultural heritage which the world has openly embraced through film and music – the Brits showed the world what being creative is all about.

You have to hand it to the Brits when it comes to wit, humour, creativity and, surely, popular music. No one does it better.

The organisers knew they would not be able to compete with the Chinese who welcomed the world to the Beijing Olympics with their grand epic opening of thousands of drummers and flying swordsmen. That is an image etched on our minds forever.

Knowing that, the Brits kept reminding the world that they would be presenting a different kind of show, and what a difference it was. Everyone in the stadium, and around the world, watching the event live was reminded that it was the Brits who brought us James Bond, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, the World Wide Web and, of course, Mr Bean.

The Brits have something they know the others would not be able to match, which is their ability to laugh at themselves. Plus, the Brits sure know how to party. They are determined to make the London Games one of the best in their own way.

Putting protocol aside, director Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame was even able to get the Queen and her two Corgis to agree to “act” with Daniel Craig in a James Bond movie. The scene was apparently filmed in March and remained top secret until last night.

The scene of Bond and a Queen Elizabeth lookalike skydiving into the stadium will also be much talked about for years to come.

The Queen, who is celebrating 60 years on the throne, must be commended for sportingly agreeing to play a minor but important role in the video clip and giving consent for a lookalike to jump out of the “helicopter”.

And let’s not forget the other Queen who performed the Bohemian Rhapsody, which is easily one of the most recognisable songs in history.

It was also a surprise to see Mr Bean aka Rowan Atkinson joining the London Symphony Orchestra in a powerful rendition of the theme from Chariots of Fire. His comic character certainly brought the house down.

The platoon of Sgt Peppers and inflatable yellow submarines were a delight especially to people of my generation. It was the humour and self-mockery that made the show so uniquely British.

The organisers had marketed this Olympics as the “friendliest” games ever and the “most fun games”, and we now know for sure they can beat the Chinese when it comes to this.

There were some bizarre moments too, like minister in charge of the Olympics Jeremy Hunt’s bell flying off its handle while he was ringing it – in front of TV cameras. The bell hit Hunt’s publicist, and the embarrassed Culture Secretary, who had earlier said he could not promise the games without any glitches, sportingly rushed over to his aide and was heard saying: “My goodness me! Terrible moment there. There you are, disaster averted and thank you. You got more TV there.”

It was all nicely handled and he could laugh at himself. The press was not told to omit the awkward scene. That’s class for you and something our overly sensitive Malaysian politicians need to emulate – chill out and learn to laugh.

Knowing how tricky transportation would be last night, my friends and I decided to take a boat to the venue instead. The day before, we had got ourselves “trapped” when we went to watch the Olympics torch relay at Oxford Street.

The tube stations were jam-packed and we wondered what the consequences would be if an unwanted incident were to break out as there seemed to be little crowd control.

There have been minor protests by cab drivers but, on the whole, the Londoners have worked together to ensure the success of the games. So far, everything has been marvellous.

The policemen openly displayed the Olympic mascots on their vehicles and motorcycles. Those on duty during the torch run relay along Oxford Street, easily one of the busiest streets in the world, acted with restraint, allowing the crowd to come close to the buses carrying the torch bearers.

They also took the trouble to engage with the crowd who were waiting patiently for the torch runners.

It was English politeness that left a deep impression on me. The volunteers were always smiling and happy to say “thank you”, “please”, and “have a good time”.

If they carry on like this, the London Games will certainly live up to its promise of being the friendliest games ever.

And, considering that this is the first time I have ever watched the Olympics up close and personal, the memories will linger and be part of my grandfather stories one day.