And then we get on with the event: Badminton. Trampolining. Beach volleyball. Water polo. This isn’t the body stretched to its limits — it’s the world’s largest gathering of every crank who took the croquet way too seriously at your last backyard barbecue. Would you invite back the man you found weeping in the shrubbery after he was undone at Jarts? Every four years such eccentrics are held up for our global adulation.

But that’s the Olympics: a gruesome wedding of inordinate self-importance with crackpot micro-monomania. Today’s games (not, please, Games) do not suggest the ancients and their simple olive wreaths. The combination of the pompous and prosaic calls to mind what the U.S. Postal Service would be like if it were run by the Hapsburg dynasty. The International Olympic Committee’s archdukes and barons — and I remind you that IOC president Jacques Rogge is literally a count, having been ennobled by the King of Belgium — bedizen one another with shiny badges and ribbons, paying little heed to the athletes, the seething provincials whose labor is the regime’s strength…

Her Majesty is supposed to be the one person in the Western world who is not actually available to star in a little spoof of a James Bond film, but acknowledgment must be made that throughout Danny Boyle’s bizarre opening ceremony the Queen maintained an appropriately regal look of frosty disdain, or possibly disbelief.