Saturday, July 28, 2012

London Olympics Tribute to National Health Care


The opening ceremony of the London Olympics is an extravaganza par excellence - you've got to see it!!! It was everything I hoped it would be, eccentric, trippy, colorful, historical - all of it, from the Shakespearean reference to "The Tempest," to the Queen arriving with James Bond, to the flights along the Thames and all the little hat-tips to Pink Floyd, Monty Python, Harry Potter, Mr. Bean, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and of course, the Beatles.

We enjoyed every minute of it, but especially the democratic aspect, the idea that everyone got to participate even in a small way, which is the brainchild of designer Danny Boyle. In an interview following the ceremony he told Meredith Vieira of NBC that he loved the idea of the Olympic Torch being carried past the very people who built the Olympic arena, which is built on the once-wasteland of East London. And indeed, an Olympian ran with the torch past rows of ordinary people in hard hats, connecting them to what they had built, and as he put it, connecting them to the Queen herself.

But the heart of the whole show for me, and the part which really shamed the U.S. was Boyle's spectacular tribute to the National Health system in the UK, which rendered me speechless for a few minutes. It was all about doctors and nurses protecting children from their worst fears and nightmares, symbolized by literary characters such as Voldemort, Captain Hook, the Child Stealer from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, and the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. When I recovered my senses, I assured my own children that they will probably never see such an outpouring of creativity to celebrate a social program in the United States, more's the pity.


I hope that most Americans were watching and got an eyeful, especially everyone in Congress or the Senate who voted against President Obama's healthcare plan, everyone who held hysterical prayer groups on Facebook in hopes the Supreme Court would strike it down, and every member of that Court who wanted to trash our only safety net for the uninsured. Our flawed system in such a rich country is the shame of the world, and while Britain's health plan may not be perfect, most people there have grown up with it and never had to choose between buying glasses or going to the dentist, between buying food and buying medicine. No one suffers because they don't have insurance - everyone has it!

Because of National Health, the Brits have a different reality than we have in the United States, and it made me think that instead of scary literary characters, we have scary lawmakers and judges who don't care whether children are protected. Mitt Romney was in the audience watching, and I hope the words "repeal Obamacare" were ringing in his ears.


Director's Tribute to "Amazing" NHS

More than 600 real-life nurses and other healthcare workers joined Boyle's army of volunteers during the extravaganza.

. . . Boyle said: "One of the reasons we put the NHS in the show is that everyone is aware of how important the NHS is to everybody in this country. We believe, as a nation, in universal healthcare. It doesn't matter how poor you are, how rich you are, you will get treated.

"One of the core values of our society is that it doesn't matter who you are, you will get treated the same in terms of healthcare. We all end up there. You can be in all these private hospitals - if anything serious happens to you, you are in the NHS. And that felt like something that we thought was a great thing to celebrate.

"We are almost unique in having universal healthcare. It is something that is very dear to people's hearts. All types of government fight like billy-o, to control it, to cut it, to deal with it. But there is something about it - it is so embedded in us that we have decided to keep it. It is an amazing thing to celebrate."

Boyle said that the volunteers who came from the NHS were "proud people", adding: "They work for something that they truly, truly believe in. We're delighted to add to that by saluting them. All of the volunteers have made a special sacrifice to be with us but these guys are extraordinary.


"They turn up after shifts - you know what they are dealing with every day, they are dealing with mortality and sick children - yet they turn up and they have made it absolutely amazing."

. . . Lottie Pink, from Kingston, south west London, was one of the patients from the hospital who took part in the show. The 10-year-old was treated for a brain tumour two years ago and returns to the hospital every few months for check-ups.

She said: "I am proud to represent all the great work the hospital does. Without them, I would not be here.

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