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Spending £9.3 billion on the Olympic games was always going to be contentious at a time of public spending cuts, and it is easy to dream up other ways of spending such a vast sum of money. But this large investment will bring many benefits, some of which will be felt directly by nurses.
Several have had the honour of carrying the Olympic torch as it has made its way through the UK, and many other torchbearers have been patients whose participation in the relay would not have been possible without the care they received from the nursing team.
The opening ceremony featured hundreds of nurses. It highlighted the work of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital for children in London and celebrated the NHS as a whole. Critics may point out that it was not the most diverse group of nurses, and the sugar-coated imagery did not reflect the realities of children’s nursing. But the scene was set in the 1950s and it is wonderful nonetheless that the profession should receive such a high-profile tribute in a ceremony watched by almost a quarter of the world’s population.
Event director Danny Boyle explained his decision to feature the NHS as follows: ‘Universal health care is very dear to people’s hearts. All types of government fight like billy-oh 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.’ Well said.
Now nurses are making a professional contribution at venues across London and the rest of the UK. Competitors, spectators, staff and volunteers who fall injured or ill are being cared for at various clinics run by nursing staff, many of whom have given their time freely.
The first weekend of competition was marred slightly by the number of empty seats and, as Nursing Standard went to press, the organisers were considering filling the gaps with off-duty members of the armed forces. No one could argue with that, but it would be a nice touch if some of the nation’s nurses were also given the chance to watch the events.
It will be a while before any public health legacy is realised, so for now all we can do is enjoy the games as a celebration of human endeavour.
Editorial | August 1 2012 | Vol 26 No 48