Take 70 days, 33 cast members supported by a stellar crew, about $20 million, the world’s best technology and expertise and a nation coming together to haul a little capsule like one giant pulley through a hole in the ground. Throw in a love triangle, a dramatic marriage proposal, a goggle-eyed audience and you have the makings of a Hollywood hyperbole. But the real story of the dramatic liberation of 33 Chilean miners, trapped underground for over two months, lies in the way it showcased a nation’s determination to take care of its own. Not only did the saga capture global imagination, it also threw in a lesson or two on ensuring the safety of an invisible workforce.
Mining accidents regularly make news mostly as ominous flashes in the pan, with little time for reaction, much less rescue. What the catastrophes fail to do, this feat might instead: make us think about raising the safety standards of the industry. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera rose to the occasion and moved to strengthen safety laws and regulation of coal mines while raising royalties paid by mining companies. Mr Pinera’s popularity ratings soared as he hugged each liberated miner and rescue worker. Perhaps his smiling visage will serve to acquaint our politicians — afraid of getting their feet wet during calamities and opting for aerial surveys — with the power of the hands-on approach.
As the Commonwealth Games come to an end, maybe Chile’s remarkable feat also offers a clue on other ways of showcasing a nation’s muscle. Like assisting the world’s most prominent space agency to pull off a miracle from under the earth, maybe?