It does not follow, of course, that if tyrannies produce trifles, trifles—and the opening ceremony was undoubtedly one—are necessarily the product of tyrannies. But the ceremony, postmodern as it might have been in form—assuming, as it did, that the contemporary mind is like that of a child, in constant need of swiftly changing amusement—was not free of ideological content, even if that content was comparatively restrained and benign compared with that of, say, Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. It was more akin to North Korea lite.
Of course it was impressive, as anything staged on a sufficiently large scale and well-organized is impressive. The fear of almost all Britons, amounting virtually to an expectation, that the games would at once descend into chaos was not fulfilled. On the contrary, the choreography was impeccable, and thousands participated without mishap, with the precision of a military parade. There were even moments of genuine wit, which distinguished the ceremony from the North Korean equivalent.