People's History of the NHS


London Olympics Ceremony

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, directed by Danny Boyle, included a homage to Britain's NHS. However this focused on a more local site: London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and its beds, nurses, and child patients. Although the letters NHS would be lit up for the international television audience, the lights also projected the Great Ormond Street logo. This suggests that national affection and pride for the NHS was still sometimes rooted in particular institutions and their longer histories.


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2 thoughts on “London Olympics Ceremony

  1. Was this celebration of NHS a government choice (advertising) or a result of some citizen sentiment?

    1. That;s a really interesting question — and not altogether straightforward to answer. Here you can find a breakdown of all the spending, public and private, that went into delivering the London 2012 Olympic Games. You’ll see that both central government and local governments put money into the pot for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic and paralympic games (£0.04 bn each). But as far as we have been able to unearth, director Danny Boyle had substantial artistic control over the Opening Ceremony. He and his team chose to showcase aspects of British history that they felt were quintessentially ‘British’, and this included the NHS. Ideologically, the government of the day had little interest in promoting Britain’s universal, free-at-the-point-of-need health service, and reporting at the time suggested they were less than thrilled with Boyle’s love letter to the Service; Boyle reported in 2016 that then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded that the NHS section be cut down, and that Boyle saved it only by threatening to resign and to take the volunteers whose contributions dominated the Opening Ceremony with him. (

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