It certainly was not subtle to my eyes, but to me, the whole thing felt like a big two fingers up at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony; rather than try to compete, it almost subverted everything that the previous Olympics stood for and created a new basis for evaluation and comparison. In this context, any faults with the London games can be charming and creative, not faux pas.
The Chinese were about uniformity, about putting on a strong, controlled face of a perfect nation, of perfect people, of people that are uniform, of perfect composition, and very much a serious demonstration of every positive aspect to Chinese history and progress.
The British ceremony was a total rejection of each and every one of these traits. It was humorous, self deprecating, soft, whimsical and creative. When thinking about it, it's pretty stunning to have temporarily sick kids sing quite badly, to showcase kids with serious long term medical conditions, to show all manner of races and religions -- it was very much about differences and about faults. I almost expected to see some giant wonky teeth at one point.
We had comedians subvert our most talented orchestras, we kind of celebrated the quite mundane and lower class English family life, complete with kids attached to computer games and text-based evenings out.
At one point, there was the Prodigy's Firestarter playing while young people appeared almost to mimic the riots of a year ago, and shortly after, we put the heroin addicts from Trainspotting on a big pedestal.
I guess the two most amazing things, when you take a step back, were that we had our Queen do two things.
1) She "jumped" out of a helicopter as a quasi "bond girl."
2) She was in a stadium while the Sex Pistols anarchic and antimonarchist song " God save the queen" was playing (I am sure this actually happened), a song which basically calls the Queen a moron.
I can't quite imagine Hu Jintao doing the same!
The only quirky non-obvious thing I can add is that the McCartney family did well out of the whole thing, with Paul singing and daughter Stella designing the GB teams outfits.
Oh, and the mysterious TV clip of a weatherman on a rainbow background is a famous part of British history where our nationally loved weatherperson had the courage to dismiss a call from a concerned citizen about a storm coming, which later proved to be wrong, as one of the most damaging storms ever to hit the nation shortly followed. I guess again it was a humorous joke about ourselves, our obsession with the weather, and our rebellious nature.