LONDON-- You will remember the Queen, right?
You will remember Daniel Craig as James Bond, walking into Buckingham Palace and escorting Queen Elizabeth into a helicopter, as her Corgis look on, cocking their heads.
You will remember the helicopter flying over the Olympic Stadium. And you will remember the Queen - OK, a stunt man had been subbed in at that point - parachuting into the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
Only England could have staged this one. Only England could have thought of parachuting royalty.
Only England could have spliced Shakespeare and the Sex Pistols, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, the inventor of the Internet and Mr. Bean.
Only England could have opened with the Queen and closed with Paul McCartney.
Only England could followed Beijing, come to think of it.
Better? Who can possibly say? But it was funnier, that's for sure.
Photo by: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images
London took the wraps off its third Olympics Friday night with a wink and a nudge, a history lesson and a fart joke.
Yes, a fart joke. And a dancing celebration of national health care. And a legion of flying Mary Poppinses vanquishing a giant Lord Voldemort.
England knew it could never match Beijing for majesty. So it went for other things instead.
It went for honesty, or a passing stab at it anyway, leaving out the imperialism and whatnot. But there was a real live Industrial Revolution, with massive smokestacks and ruined landscapes and broken laborers.
It went for charm, and nobody has ever done charm better, from Charles Dickens on down. J.K. Rowling was at the ceremony, reading an excerpt from Peter Pan, in a perfect - and perfectly sweet - reminder that this is a nation of storytellers.
It went for humor without apology, and when has an Opening Ceremony ever made you laugh out loud? This one did. It was pure slapstick in parts, as when Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) led the orchestra in a hilarious rendition of Chariots of Fire.
Even the James Bond entrance required a sense of humor from, above all, Queen Elizabeth. You wonder who had the nerve to approach her with the idea?
"OK, Your Majesty, it's like this. We're going to have you and your dogs in the film, and we're going to load you in a helicopter, and . SH12G215OPENING, SH12G216OPENING, SH12G217OPENING."
Listen, it's silly to try to rank these events. Like picking your favorite parade. They don't give medals out for the best Opening Ceremony. Otherwise Michael Phelps would have won a few by now.
But London did well by this occasion. It did well by its history. And if the event wasn't as technologically jaw-dropping as the one four years ago, it resonated in a way that one did not.
The songs were familiar. The books were familiar. The movies and the jokes and the points of history. We all read Shakespeare and we all listened to the Stones. Or, if not the Stones, then Danny Boy.
So this was a nostalgic ceremony, more than most, before giving way to the sprawling athletes parade. The United States team looked snappy in classic blue. The crowd greeted it with warm applause.
The English team entered to David Bowie's "Heroes," decked out in aspirational gold. But that's as close to audacity as the evening came. Understatement was the theme of the night, right up to the end.
After months of speculation and wagering over which great British athlete would light the Olympic flame, the answer arrived: None of them. The seven logical contenders appointed seven kids. The kids then lit the flame.
Then on came McCartney, sitting at a piano, singing his familiar songs. It wasn't spectacular, but it was just the right touch. The whole world could sing along.
(Geoff Calkins, columnist for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., is part of the Scripps team covering the London Olympics)