London did what Chicago could never have done: celebrate the existence of universal healthcare.
To the surprise of many, the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic games, directed by Danny Boyle, included a tribute to the National Health Service. And the performers included 800 volunteers from the NHS.
The next, dreamlike sequence celebrated one of Britain’s most beloved institutions, the National Health Service, while playing on its link to another celebrated icon.
Founded in 1948, the NHS provides free healthcare, and has become the fifth largest employer in the world, with 1.7 million staff. Many Britons are fiercely proud of the service and have fought to defend it from successive waves of reforms.
The NHS was represented here by several wards’ worth of nurses pushing hospital beds, which were used as trampolines by children before being arranged to spell out the word: “Gosh.”
Coming in close proximity to a recitation from J.M. Barrie’s children’s classic Peter Pan — “When you play at it by day with the chairs and table-cloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very real” — this was a clear reference to Great Ormond Street Hospital, a London children’s hospital closely associated with that book.
In 1929, Barrie gifted all the rights from the work to the hospital, claiming that Peter Pan himself had been a patient there, and that “it was he who put me up to the little thing I did for the hospital.”
OK, so depictions of the preindustrial bucolic countryside made no reference to the enclosure movements. And while Boyle did include the “dark satanic mills” of the industrial revolution, there was no mention of the financial crash, much less a depiction of Barclay’s manipulation of LIBOR.
Still, while the ConDem government is busy trying to privatize aspects of British healthcare, the NHS stands as something to be celebrated and defended.
Apparently, the ceremonies also included
trade union members among a parade of people celebrating political agitators from the past, a parade that also included suffragists, Afro-Caribbean immigrants who fought for minority rights, and the Jarrow hunger marchers, who protested against unemployment in 1936.