I didn’t watch the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics. For that matter, I still haven’t seen the lavishly-praised 2008 Beijing ceremonies either or any Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade or any of the Royal weddings or state funerals. The truth is I am just not a big fan of long, elaborate, staged, set-piece ceremonies. I find them incredibly boring. Give me a ten-minute clip of the highlights and I might watch. But I am glad when the events go off well, given all the hard work (not to mention money) that goes into them, and so was pleased to see that the London event had been well-received.
I was particularly amused how some Americans were surprised at the extended and handsome tribute given to the British National Health Service during the opening. This is the fully state-run health care system that provides free care to all residents. It is socialized medicine in all its glory, the nightmare of the right wing and Tea Party here. The Daily Mail has a roundup of some of the reactions along with nice photos.
I was a major beneficiary of the NHS as a child and over a period of five years spent months, both as an in-patient and out-patient, at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children that was singled out for special mention in the celebration with the letters GOSH spelled out. I described my experiences here as part of my review for Michael Moore’s 2007 film Sicko. I was pleased to see both the NHS and that hospital being singled out for praise.
If you listened to the fantasies of the right-wingers here, you would think that the British health system was awful and that the public there hated it and longed to adopt the US system. Showing how much the British love their National Health Service seems to have come as a shock to the more ignorant of the people here whose only source of information is the propaganda put out by the health care and drug industries and their political lackeys. The thought that the British loved it so much to give it such prominence must have stuck in their craw, especially since the organizers did not hesitate to explicitly stick it to the critics of their system of socialized medicine. In a media guide, they said “The NHS is the institution which more than any other unites our nation. It was founded just after World War II on Aneurin Bevan’s famous principle, ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.'”
In another subtle nod to the virtues of the group over the individual, the Olympic cauldron consisted of not a single giant flame but 204 separate flames arranged like the petals of a flower representing all the nations at the games and was lit, not by a single famous individual, but by seven young anonymous athletes simultaneously.
England United Kingdom!