Nurses Light up the Olympic Ceremony Stage
In one of the quirkiest and most humorous opening ceremonies ever, Great Britain really put on a show at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Amid the cadre of the umbrella-wielding Mary Poppins descending, the flock of sheep, Lord Voldemort, the Sex Pistols, Paul McCartney, and a rustic village, 800 doctors and nurses put on their dancing shoes and joined the show in a musical number dedicated to the National Health Service.
The zany number featured children posing as sick patients bouncing on hundreds of hospital beds. The exuberant ’70s style dance number was called “Second to the Right,” a reference to Peter Pan, in a tribute to two proud British traditions: children’s literature and the universal healthcare system. In the opening moments of the dance sequence, lighted beds were arranged to spell GOSH, the acronym for London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The organizer, filmmaker Danny Boyle, sent out a casting call, not to actors or dancers, but to the National Health Service. The performers were real working doctors and nurses, who auditioned for the parts and then worked hard to learn the dance number. In an interview with BBC World News, Betsey Lau-Robinson, the senior nurse at University College London Hospital said, “I know that when we started to audition, most of us had two left feet. By the end of this, my children were saying: “I had no idea you could dance like that.”
The Point and the Politics
While the ceremony was intended to feature a portrait of Great Britain through time and capture the spirit of the country and the people, the political overtones in the wake of the U.S. healthcare controversy are undeniable. During the ongoing U.S. healthcare debate, the media often vilifies socialized health care, holding the U.K. National Health Service up as a terrifying option that U.S. citizens should run screaming from, citing incompetent care, long waits, and over-regulated service.
As it turns out, Great Britain is proud of their standard of healthcare, and it seems they want the world to know, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion. Not every British citizen was amused by the ceremony, which also included references to the suffering labor unions, suffragists, and immigrants who fought for rights. One member of the Parliament Conservative party twittered grumpily “The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen — more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state!”
What do you think? Was the liberal spin on the opening ceremonies appropriate? Should the Games, and the hoopla surrounding them, be politically neutral – if that’s even possible? Or should we enjoy the spectacle and ignore the undertones?