In his showcasing of a Britain once agrarian and bound to the social order: Lords of the manor upstairs, scullery maids, downstairs, Boyle had the floor of the Olympic stadium covered in sod and brought in sheep and work horses.
Then he waved the green of old England away, replacing it with smoke stacks and machinery, representing the Industrial Revolution. Boyle paid tribute to the National Health Service of Britain by filling the stadium floor with children and iron beds of hospital wards.
With dancing nurses and fanciful creatures from children’s books, Boyle reminded his audience loving care keeps the nightmares away and “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
Before a long paean to the music of England’s own, the Mary Poppins of stage and screen floated in on the night sky in sensible black dresses, holding umbrellas and carpetbags.
Boyle shone light on milestones in his country’s history, but bypassed the darkest days of his island home, deciding the bombings of London in World War II were a painful memory, too painful for an Olympics viewing audience, world-wide.
Yet respect is due for an England managing to pull off the 1948 Olympics. Athletes from 59 countries came to compete. Post-war Britain had no money to house and feed them, so Olympic hopefuls arrived with food in hand.
Events were held in Wembley Stadium, still standing after the war. Male athletes bunked in old army barracks and women were housed in dormitories at a nearby college.
The British athletes could not find a Union Jack to hold aloft in the parade of nations, so (the story goes) Roger Bannister, a track star, broke into a car to retrieve one.
The United States won the 400-meter relay by 18 feet, but a judge determined one of the team members passed the baton outside of the proper zone. America’s runners were disqualified.
After medals were awarded and anthems played, a second look at photographs and film of the baton passing, (no instant replay then,) convinced judges the United States had won the relay.
The British track team gave up gold medals, settling for silver.
In a Europe healing after the war, the 1948 Olympics focused on the gifts of athletes who had gathered to keep the Olympic tradition alive, bringing their own soap and towels to the games.
Four years later, an England, rebuilding, embraced a young queen, only 26 years old, a monarch who was the hit of the 2012 Olympics opening, playing her part as the latest Bond Girl.
Now 86, dressed in a pink frock with feathers in her hair, Elizabeth II of England, escorted by Daniel Craig, the James Bond of filmdom, greeted him and approached the royal helicopter bound for the Olympic stadium.
A little sleight of hand and two stunt men, one dressed as Herself, the other, tuxedo-clad, parachuted into the stadium. Minutes later, the queen entered her box in the viewing stand to cheers and applause. The next day, she was heard telling the Mayor of London she had not yet seen her “bit” on television. He assured her the audience and the press loved it!
If we were expecting the glitzy extravaganza of Beijing to lead us into the 2012 Olympics, we forgot who was in charge. Word was sent forth. England would not be “spending her defense budget on pyrotechnics.”
Light-hearted, we watched the Olympics, beamed in from the kingdom of “stay calm and carry on.” But, there was a day, when, still recovering from unspeakable losses and bombs raining down on London, a war-torn England committed to host the Olympic games of 1948.
The Brits, they of Dunkirk and Winston Churchill’s finest hour, saved the day.
Judy Elliott is an award-winning columnist from Marietta.