Taking Stock - July 30, 2012

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The eyes of the world are, for the next two weeks, firmly focused on us here in little old Blighty thanks, in no part, to the planet’s biggest sports day.

The Olympics began in spectacular style on Friday night when millions, if not billions, around the globe tuned in for Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony.

Surreal, stunning and packed with good-old fashioned British humour (who knew Her Majesty was so game for a laugh) it was a pyrotechnic packed history lesson and geography class rolled into one.

It was also a chance to remind the world, and ourselves, of the massive contribution these small islands have made and why we should be so proud to be British.

It was all there, from Brunel to The Beatles, a masterclass in everything Blighty has produced in the past 300 years.

Wearing my anorak, for a moment, I was pleased to see Brunel, played by Kenneth Branagh, given such a big part to play, even if My Good Wife did think, for some time, he was Abraham Lincoln.

For Brunel there was no such thing as can’t.

When people in suits said things simply weren’t possible, he went out and proved them wrong building 
everything from railways to great iron steamships and landmark bridges.

And, by gum, did he build things to last, even if, on occasion, he did nearly bankrupt the Great Western Railway doing so.

An innovator, a man who thought ahead of his time.

A bit like Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the brains behind the world wide web, given his own cameo, even if he did look a bit lost miming away at typing into a computer which wasn’t turned on.

Call me a sucker for punishment but I always look forward to the parade of nations although, I suspect much like the rest of the nation, I was pretty much flagged-out by the end of the As.

“How many countries are there?” asked my good wife, as Argentina marched by.

Seemingly her estimation of somewhere around 30 was a little wide of the mark and she was fast asleep as the Federated States of Micronesia made their journey around the track.

I’ll admit to having leaden eyes by the time Senegal were making their appearance, having spent the best part of half-an-hour in semi-conscious amazement at the number of countries which start with the letter N.

There seem to be more Vs than I remember, although, given the fact it was approaching midnight, I had completely forgotten about the existence of Vietnam, despite evidence in my passport to show I’ve been there.

Never mind the eyes of the world, at this point my peepers were in need of a few matchsitcks, but, like many, I was determined to stay up to see Sir Chris Hoy lead in our Olympic heroes (well, some of them... not our world-beating swimmers... or cyclists...but Tom Daley was there).

It was down to another great British hero, Sir Steve Redgrave, to carry the flame on its final journey into the stadium.

Let’s just hope there’s more best of British to come in the next two weeks.