Big kick off is all about formations on the pitch

Opening Ceremony
  • @timwalker

Every major sporting event's opening ceremony now has the unenviable task of competing with Zhang Yimou's 2008 Beijing Olympics extravaganza.

And let's face it, yesterday's pageant in Johannesburg didn't quite measure up. Can any such spectacle be considered great if (a) the television commentator – in this case, ITV veteran Peter Drury – is forced to explain the symbolic significance of the choreography, and/or (b) R Kelly is the headline act? Still, people in glass houses and all that: by London 2012, budget constraints will probably mean the bill is topped by the woman with the dancing border collie from Britain's Got Talent.

Yesterday's ceremony featured mildly ragged mass dance routines, a seemingly interminable South African tourist board video, a fine roster of singers from across the continent and, most importantly, a sea of smiling South African faces. Naomi Campbell was there too, although she didn't seem to be grinning much.

The action was overseen by Lion King composer Lebo M and, despite the wealth of wondrous wildlife puppets at his disposal, he chose for his requisite giant mechanical creature a dung beetle. Drury described the oversized bug as "the hitherto unsung hero of the African ecosystem". Behind it the beetle rolled a representation of the official World Cup "Jabulani" football, as if it were a sphere of compacted turd – which, according to the tournament's complaining goalkeepers, isn't far wrong.

As for the TV coverage, the question bedevilling ITV executives and their viewers is: having mastered the art of the wry spin-off show (to wit, MOTD2 and The Apprentice: You're Fired), can Adrian Chiles be trusted with flagship coverage? On the evidence of this, I'd call him safe hands. If that wasn't already David Seaman's nickname.