The Olympics officially got under way Friday with the much-anticipated opening ceremony, titled "Isles of Wonder," which, as the name suggests, was a spectacular three-hour tribute to Hawaii.
No, seriously, it was a tribute to Great Britain, starting with the past, when this was a rural society — depicted in the show by 120 actual farm animals, including sheep, horses and cows — then moving forward through Britain's many great historic achievements such as the Beatles. The complex and imaginative show went off without a hitch, except for one unfortunate incident when four of the sheep were shot by members of the Kazakhstani Olympic archery team, who apparently misunderstood the nature of the event.
Speaking of international incidents: Mitt "Mitt" Romney, who is running for president of the United States, showed up here in Great Britain, despite the fact that this is a foreign country. Mitt immediately got into hot water by committing a gaffe, which is the word we use when a supposedly experienced politician makes the stupid mistake of saying, out loud, what he actually thinks.
This happened in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams. Brian asked Mitt if he thought the Brits were ready to host the games. This is a question that has only one politically acceptable answer, namely: "Yes." Even if, at that very moment, Mitt could see Syrian troops entering Trafalgar Square and a mushroom cloud rising over the Houses of Parliament, he was supposed to answer: "Yes, Brian, absolutely, they are ready." Instead, he expressed some mild concerns about the level of Olympic preparedness.
The British press was DEEPLY offended. This is pretty funny when you consider that the same British press has spent months and months loudly and repeatedly expressing grave concerns about the level of Olympic preparedness. But when Mitt did it, the Brits were outraged, OUTRAGED. Many journalists took time out from questioning Britain's Olympic preparedness to declare that Mitt was an idiot for questioning Britain's Olympic preparedness.
The mayor of London, whose name is "Boris," agreed with this view. British Prime Minister David Cameron also weighed in, saying "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere." He was referring to the fact that Mitt ran the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which, in the view of the prime minister, is some kind of mud hut occupied by maybe a dozen half-naked people squatting around a fire gnawing on raw squirrels.
Anyway, when Mitt became aware that he had committed this horrific gaffe, he responded, in the great tradition of American political leadership, by lying. Within hours he was declaring with hearty insincerity that everything was fabulous, Olympic-preparedness-wise. Of course that didn't satisfy anybody: You're supposed to get the lie right the first time. This is the essence of statesmanship.
Speaking of squirrels: According to news reports, squirrels have been sabotaging the Olympic beach-volleyball practice courts in St. James Park by burying acorns in the sand. The athletes have been stepping on these acorns, which is a problem because beach-volleyball players do not wear shoes. They don't really wear anything, which is why beach volleyball is so popular.
To investigate, I went down to St. James Park, where I spoke to a soldier guarding the practice courts. I asked him if he had heard about the squirrels sabotaging the courts, and he said he had. I then asked him if he and the other soldiers were planning to take military action against the squirrels, and he replied — this is a direct quote — "We've been feeding them." If you ask me, this is a shocking lapse of security.
No, wait, I take that back. If you ask me, everything is fabulous.
Prize-winning humor columnist Dave Barry is on the prowl in the United Kingdom as London hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics.
He's finding stories that others miss ... or aren't crazy enough to tell.