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Giant screens have sprung up in cities across the land to bring British audiences the sights and sounds of the Beijing Olympics. The cost is being met, praise be, not by the taxpayer, but by the National Lottery, with assistance from business sponsorship, which makes it an excellent deal all round.

Part of the idea is that it should get us into the mood for London 2012. Big screens that foster a live, community experience of exclusive or faraway events have proved hugely popular – and for good reason. Thanks to them, an enormous variety of entertainment, from sport to grand opera, via classic films, has become accessible to all. They make impersonal town centres into an event, and provide a welcome antidote to the social fragmentation that is a by-product of the internet and the small screen.

Best of all, they redress the malign balance of recent years that has seen outdoor video – those ubiquitous CCTV cameras – deployed mainly for Big Brotherly purposes. The big screen gives those millions of us now being watched something worthwhile and absorbing to watch, too.

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