It is heart-warming to know that millions of people all over the world watched the TV pictures of the Olympic Torch Relay through London yesterday, though to get a real lump in the throat you had to be there.
Even foreigners who despise the English have to admit that when it comes to putting on a spectacle we are among the best in the world. It really was a splendid sight: trolling along the streets came this colourful swirling mass: an outer ring of dark-clad riot police in their stab-proof vests, inside them more police in bright yellow jackets and those quaint cycling helmets ("in case they need to use cycles", though they didn't seem to have any with them), then a ring of Chinese heavies in rather fetching powder blue shell suits and baseball caps and finally, at the centre, a mêlée of assorted characters pushing each other about, falling over and generally carrying on.
An effective touch was provided by the flicker of flame which could occasionally be seen among the writhing bodies, and the merry cries of the spectators added to the fun.
All this excitement, contrasting with a very quiet and moving handover ceremony featuring about four people and taking place in the middle of an otherwise empty stadium, made a terrific show aptly symbolising whatever it was intended to symbolise. The opening ceremony in Beijing cannot but be an anticlimax.