By Tim Montgomerie
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I was very fortunate to be at last night's opening ceremony. It was an occasion I will never forget. The Olympic ring(s) emerging from that industrialised stage; the rural scenes; the Red Arrows; the performance of great hymns and Shakespeare; the powerful portrayal of Jamaicans arriving in Britain on the Windrush boat; the sequence with the Queen and Bond; the sight of Beckham powering down the Thames; the roar that greeted Team GB; the beautiful Union Flag fluttering at the heart of the stadium; the humour of Rowan Atkinson; the celebration of our great entertainments industry, of the principles of the NHS and of some of our great innovators. It was a magical, unforgettable occasion watched by a billion people. If the media write-ups are accurate then the world was wowed too.
All the plaudits will go to Manchester United fan Danny Boyle but I'm glad the volunteers are getting credit too. In a Games associated with significant commercialism their spirit is cheering. This is a political website so let me also say well done to Jeremy Hunt. Some time ago he took the difficult decision to double the budget for the ceremonies from something like £40 million to £80 million. Most of that extra money went on last night. It was the right judgment call.
The original plan had been for an 'austerity Olympics'. Of course these are tough times but how often does a country get to showcase itself to the world? This might be the last Olympics ceremony Britain hosts for another fifty years, perhaps a century. The world saw a quirky, inventive, diverse, compassionate, funny Britain last night and we proved yet again that we are good at the biggest of events. I don't think the Games could have got off to a better start. It didn't even rain.