Sport on TV / Luge suits, togas and Georgie on the ivories

There are few more certain facts of life than that opening ceremonies are living laboratories of naffness. So why should the beano for the start of the World Athletics Championships (Eurosport) have been any different?

With 100,000 spectators holding candles it was like a stadium gig from the 1970s, when all those burning matches meant there was enough sulphur in a confined space to form an entirely new and unique ecosystem.

Beautiful though it was, this wasn't the stadium where the real thing is being held - it was obvious from its long, thin shape that the only sport it can ever have housed is drag racing. A Greek dignitary, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Magnum, spoke of his hope for - as the subtitles put it - "a magnificent sight of a people excited and thrilled to the point of drunkenness". I hadn't realised there was going to be a large British contingent there.

Things warmed up when a phalanx of mock-peasants with big drums joined forces with a bunch of masked dancers. A squadron of little purple people came on to assist. Tim Hutchings and his co-presenter, Steve Cram, confessed that they must be getting old because they were finding it all rather moving.

Everything went horribly wrong, though. A sort of masked Riverdance routine ensued, performed by men in luge suits. It was less Oresteia, more Michael Flatley, though in fact it was meant to represent Old Father Chronos eating his children.

The ones he hadn't consumed trooped on hand in hand in togas to do the hokey-cokey round an out-of-control barbecue. I saw it, I did.

As we reached an anti-climax, on came George Best in a white tux. He was looking pretty dreadful, even for him, though his piano-playing, never one of his strong points as a footballer, has come on a treat. Georgie did the old Vangelis number from Chariots Of Fire, then a couple of TV ad theme tunes, and wound up with some unspeakably dreary original Vangelis material. It was never explained why Georgie was doing Big Van's job - there had obviously been some booking mix-up. The accompanying pageant, by the way, brought to mind the old dictum about bewaring Greeks wearing flares and bearing flags.

Even wider than Georgie was Montserrat Caballe, looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger's woman disguise in Total Recall. She sang her little heart out, though by that time it was 10.30 Athens time, and you'd have thought everyone would have been itching to get to the pub.

It was a slightly bizarre experience watching This Sporting Life (Channel 4) and a tape of Wigan's World Club Championship win over Canterbury (Sky) back to back. There have been about as many European victories in the competition so far as Richard Harris's Frank Machin has teeth after being laid out with a forearm smash at the beginning of the film, so the match, scrappy though it was, had novelty value at least.

I entered a strange crossover world where time had no meaning. Was that Harris and Colin Blakely drinking from an isotonic Lucozade container? Nah, they would never drink from a bottle with a teat.

The gritty, grainy quality of Lindsay Anderson's 1963 film meant that I kept expecting Don Fox to step up and miss a sitter, while the action sequences (intercut with real-life footage) were solemnly slow compared to today's beefed-up Keystone Cops buzzing round the ball. In Frank's day you would never have had players called Craig Polla-Mounter, even if he did nearly behead Wigan's Darryl Cardiss. Future timewarp back- to-backs include Jaws and the World Angling Championships, and Raging Bull and the next Henry Akinwande fight.

And finally... my holidaying colleague Andrew Baker has already written about Match of the Eighties (BBC1), but Danny Baker (Andrew assures me they are not, as far as he is aware, related) must not be allowed to get away with something he said last week. Having taken us through the 1981-82 season, he devoted the last 2.7 seconds of the programme to the World Cup in Spain. Baker and his mates call it "the World Cup that never happened". What? Because England were crap? Among many pleasures, there was one of the most intense matches I've ever seen, the France v Germany semi-final - that fabulous goal by Little Alain Giresse (that was his name, Little Alain Giresse), the sense of schadenfreude as the dirty Uli Stielike sank into the turf on missing in the penalty shoot-out, then Horst Hrubesch (as in what a load of) pogoing on the penalty spot as his winner nestled in the net.

But Baker and his mates were probably not watching. Too many men with strange names. Spare us the New Den Old Laddishness. You were great when you wrote about pop music 20 years ago; you were a class apart on Six- O-Six; the chat show was dire, but this programme is mostly good stuff. Just don't tread on my memories, all right?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game