2012 Olympics – the author’s experience

Things have been particularly busy for myself and for around 70,000 other Games Maker volunteers  working at London 2012 during the last few weeks, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences with you.

Having never been involved in an Olympics before, London 2012 represented  a wonderful opportunity for me and for many others to become a part of the numerous medical teams providing care for the Olympic athletes and their support staff.

My journey to the Games began, like that of many others, with an application process over a year ago and involved submitting an online application to the Games Maker website where information about previous experience and qualifications was sought. Following this, prospective volunteers were selected for interview, and I was one of the lucky ones to be given the chance to shine. This was a fairly straightforward process, and following this I was selected to become a member of one of the medical teams.

I was initially scheduled to be providing medical care for the triathlon and road cycling, but following a conversation with some of the senior medical staff and after some arm twisting, I found myself in my preferred, familiar position as part of the field-of-play team providing medical care for the soccer tournament.

After finding out about my placement, I attended role-specific training and then further venue-specific training at my main venue, Wembley Stadium in London, where the finer points of the aspects of medical care provision specific to that venue were detailed.

In addition to providing care at Wembley on match days, I was also one of those responsible for providing medical care at several soccer training venues throughout London. These venues were situated in a number of different locations within easy reach of the Olympic Village, and were well prepared and stocked with all of the equipment necessary for providing an excellent standard of immediate medical care.

Most of the soccer teams had physiotherapy and medical support within their ranks, and the job of the football medical support team was mainly to provide additional support as necessary, including emergency medical support for serious injuries.

Shift times at the various venues were varied, as was the skill-mix and team members on each day, although there was continuity with the team leaders at the main venue.

On each match day, following familiarisation and a daily orientation and planning meeting, the field-of-play team practised on-pitch and pitch-side management including immediate medical management and retrieval, simulating various scenarios including the unconscious patient with suspected spinal cord injury, cardiac arrests, head injuries and major limb injuries.

Following each of the events, a debriefing session was held where aspects of the care provided that day were discussed, and lessons were learned where they needed to be learnt.

Memorable points for me were the friendliness and camaraderie of the members of the field-of-play team and the other volunteers, the enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive crowds, and the high-quality of soccer on show from both the mens’ and womens’ teams.

The final matches for both events attracted over 86,000 spectators, and were particularly memorable for the medal ceremonies afterwards.

Although I didn’t get to see the Olympic Park or to the polyclinic in person, I was fortunate enough to speak to several other medical colleagues based at these venues and they all commented on what a fantastic experience the Games had been for them, and how well organised the medical care was throughout the many different venues.

All-in-all, this was a magical event in which to be involved as a Sports Physician. I made new friends, learned some useful medical tips and hints, saw some excellent quality soccer, and had fun. The key word for me throughout the events was teamwork, and this really shone through from the field-of-play team.

Now for the 2012 Paralympics starting on the 29th of August, where an estimated 4,200 athletes will be competing in 503 events in 21 different sports.This will be the biggest Paralympic games in history, and this time I’ll be looking forward to relaxing whilst spectating rather than providing medical cover at the events.

Pictures :

Top – the author at Wembley prior to game-time ; Middle – Wembley Stadium ; Bottom – Field-of-Play team practising pitch-side retrieval

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About Chris Hughes
Associate Editor, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine

2 Responses to 2012 Olympics – the author’s experience

  1. Mike Burdon says:

    I also very much enjoyed the Olympics Chris. My Job involved alternating between aquatic park and water polo. The physios and doctors were very nice to meet and it was great to meet team medical staff from various nations .
    Special mention to a young physio who gave up her job in NHS to volunteer at the games. Very inspiring and humbling.
    Well done to the organisers for a truly memorable experience .

    • andy massey says:

      Just came across this blog. Very interesting reading and praise must be given to that young physio who gave up her job in the NHS to volunteer at the games. I was in a similar position as a GP reg and was told by my deanery (Northern Ireland) that I needed to decide whether I wanted to be a GP or have a career in Sports Medicine when I requested unpaid leave to work at the Games. It is a pity with all the problems associated with physical inactivity that the policy makers, this side of the Irish Sea, would insist I needed to give up my training post in GP if I wanted the once in a lifetime experience of working at the Olympic Games. Unfortunately I had to pass on the chance of working at the games, as by the time I had found out I was successfull in my application, all my leave had been used for the year

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