It's customary for a host nation to celebrate what they take pride in and to showcase it for the rest of the world in their opening and closing ceremonies. In this case, in one memorable segment their National Health Service, and their world-renowned children's hospital, the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which was funded in large part by the proceeds from the rights to the play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up.
And how did such an event occur? Artistic director Danny Boyle (via The Guardian):
Hours before risking his hard-won reputation with a daring, spectacular Olympics opening ceremony, the director Danny Boyle revealed how his late father had inspired him to take it on.And more, via The Telegraph:
"When I took this job, I took it for lots of reasons. I live locally and I thought I had the confidence and the status to carry a job like this," he said. "But I also took it because my dad was a mad Olympics fan. He was seriously lunatic, sitting up all night watching grainy footage from Mexico. He introduced me to the Olympics."
His father died 18 months ago when the project was still in the planning stages, and Boyle said Friday would have been his birthday.
Asked whether he was trying to make a political point by including a lengthy sequence paying tribute to the NHS, featuring hundreds of real nurses, Boyle said free universal healthcare was "an amazing thing to celebrate".
"The sensibility of the show is very personal," he said. "We had no agenda other than values we feel are true. Not everybody will love that but everyone will recognise it's true. There's no bullshit in it and there's no point-making either."
To a live performance of his classic album Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, 600 NHS nurses and patients from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for children were due to take over the arena.
Boyle had decided to use his global platform to give the watching David Cameron a clear message: Hands Off Our NHS, and his decision to make such a bold statement about public services had caused nervousness at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
To their credit, however, ministers did not try to interfere, and the result was expected to be the most splendidly surreal section of the entire evening.
As children bounced on 320 beds in their pyjamas, the nurses manoeuvred them into position to make the Great Ormond Street logo and to spell out NHS, with each bed appearing to be magically lit from under its sheets.
Doctors and nurses jived around the beds and partied with the children, before bedtime approached, and a little boy read Peter Pan by torchlight under the covers, its words spoken by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
But his sleep was troubled as the stuff of nightmares: Captain Hook, the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cruella de Vil and Harry Potter’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort, all invaded the stadium.
Would evil win out? Not when Mary Poppins is about. Children in the stadium squealed with excitement as dozens of Poppinses flew down from the roof to shoo away the nightmares with illuminated brollies.