First night: Opening ceremony, BBC1

A world united in asking: What the hell does it all mean?

"Athens is ready and the Olympic games are coming home" declared Sue Barker, firing the starting gun on the armchair sportsman's greatest test of stamina and endurance - the marathon of the Olympics opening ceremony.

"Athens is ready and the Olympic games are coming home" declared Sue Barker, firing the starting gun on the armchair sportsman's greatest test of stamina and endurance - the marathon of the Olympics opening ceremony.

The dubious had predicted that it might well involve an unchoreographed parade of bulldozers and brickies. The disillusioned had suggested that the largest team present at the 2004 games - the 600-plus members of the anti-doping agency - deserved their own procession. But only the most grudging viewer could have denied that on the night the stadium was ready and that it looked magnificent - its flooded arena reflecting the lights waved by a 70,000 strong audience.

It wasn't exactly an unalloyed triumph for the Greek organisers - the question-marks over drug-tests for Konstadinos Kederis and Katerina Thanou having tarnished their achievement in getting to the starting blocks before the race was due to begin. But while that mystery may have dented Greek national morale, it proved a godsend for the BBC - allowing them to raise the huge issue of doping without being accused of spoiling the party.

Jacques Rogge appeared, insisting with slightly febrile intensity that every drug cheat exposed was good news for sport. "The more we catch", he said, "the better it is" - a robust view that might not be shared by television executives, who would presumably like at least a handful of competitors left to fill the next 16 days of airtime.

At home nobody needed drugs, because in keeping with Olympic tradition the opening ceremony was the usual hallucinogenic mix of national symbols and Unesco piety. It began with a giant paper boat, fortunately safely beached before the lake ignited into the linked rings of the Olympic symbol.

"The ancient gives life to the latest games of the modern" said Barry Davies, who had clearly enhanced his own performance with an Open University course in Greek history. He could tell his Cycladic from his Mycenean and that figure perched painfully on a giant sugarcube, he explained, represented the rise of philosophy. "Man has become a logical, spiritual being searching for knowledge" he murmured.

He caught the mood perfectly. All over the world, viewers were asking themselves: "What the hell does it all mean?"

Then it was all fireworks and flames and you wondered whether the action replays had started early. Frankly, if you made it all the way through, you're match fit and ready for anything.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works