The opening ceremony

Friday, May 31st, 2002

So we're off to a flyer! Excitement, quality, controversy and an unexpectedly enjoyable result. The France-Senegal game? Yes, but the same could be said of the opening ceremony.

First and foremost, Sepp Blatter got the bird, which was hugely enjoyable. FIFA's head wonk got up to bore the assembled company with the usual platitudes, but instead of the bored but respectful silence to which he is accustomed, there were catcalls and whistling. Super.

One slight initial disappointment to the uninitiated Western viewer was the quiet, reserved dignity of both the host nations' national anthems. One of the most enjoyable aspects of international sporting events is the extraordinary bombast, drum rolls and par-parpery of unknown anthems, but sadly both were very humdrum. We'll have to wait for the South Americans to get going. The ceremony itself was based on various worthy-sounding themes about communication, unity and other such guff that probably sounded like a good idea at the time. It was, to be honest, rather difficult to follow, even with a TV commentator gamely reading out his script.

But let's not worry too much about that dance symbolising the synthesis of energy, ancient understanding and the colour mauve or whatever it was. It looked absolutely fantastic.

There were all pretty girls doing dances in costumes. There were people dressed as sort of Teletubbies with TV screens in their heads. There was a fifty-foot high bell that went 'bong'. There were rows and rows of people doing perfectly coordinated dances. It was genuinely fab. All the dancers and participants looked like they had practiced again and again and again. Which they had, for the show had been in rehearsal for three years! It cost a whopping 10 million Korean Won. That's 124 million Vietnamese Dong.

The climax came after a video thing of some children (cute variety, all nationalities) who – hey! - were having problems communicating with one another. The solution, obviously, was to make some little paper boats that they blew in the air.

Then, as if by magic, 32 (one for each country, see?) giant sort of Concorde-shaped boaty-plane things entered the arena, borne by lots of people dressed like Daft Punk. Then, two halves of what looked like a giant painted grapefruit were rejoined together. This made some fireworks go off, and it was all over.

Remarkable. And very good indeed.