Arc of nations

August 8, 2008

I doubt I’ll ever see anything as wondrous as tonight’s opening ceremonies at the Olympics. Never has a story been told so vividly on such a sweeping scale. Perhaps only an authoritarian government could pull it off. And yes, the story glosses over a shameful past and present. But to conceive and execute it so stunningly and with so many people playing roles — 15,000 — was awe-inspiring.

When the camera found in the audience a slouching George W. Bush, leg bouncing and eying his watch, I surely wasn’t alone in concluding that more than the grandest spectacle ever produced was unfolding; I was watching the ascension of one nation and the decline of another.