The Greatest Show on Earth gets off to a flier – London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

And so to the Games of the XXX Olympiad – London 2012. The self-styled ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ was declared open by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second following a spectacular opening ceremony culminating in a fireworks display.

Having been shrouded in secrecy prior to the opening night, there had been much debate and rumour as to the nature of the ceremony, and in particular who would be lighting the cauldron. Danny Boyle, a local resident to Olympic Park and perhaps more famous for his movies including blockbusters such as Slumdog Millionaire, was tasked as artistic director of the opening ceremony. His previous experience as a theatre director was probably more relevant and useful to his role in shaping the vision for the ceremony, and this was conducted with a British flavour and sense of humour.

 

Watched by billions of people around the World, the so-called ‘Isles of Wonder’ ceremony was a triumph. Particular highlights for me included the forging of the Olympic rings during the Industrial Revolution sequence,  the dancing doctors and nurses section highlighting the important role of the NHS and the work of the World-famous pediatric hospital Great Ormond Street, Mr Bean and the ‘Chariots of Fire,’ a skydiving James Bond and ‘Her Majesty the Queen,’ the historical walk through Britain’s music, and a quite beautiful sequence of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which was performed by seven young future Olympic hopefuls – each sponsored by a British Olympic medalist. The cauldren itself was made up of 204 copper petals representing the number of competing Nations in the Games.

The vast majority of the performers during the Ceremony were Games Maker volunteers, and the diversity of representation made the overall performance very special, as this truly was an inspired welcome from the British people to the World.

Now the serious business of the Games themselves begins. There have already been some powerful performances, including a World record for Kiwi rowing men’s pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray who demolished the previous World’s best time held by Great Britain rowers Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell by almost 6 seconds – a huge margin in this event.

On a sadder note, the first doping offences of the Games have already led to withdrawals for two athletes. World indoor High Jump Champion, Dimitris Chondrokoukis, one of Greece’s top hopes for an athletics medal, tested positive for stanozolol. Although he denies ever taking this substance, he withdrew himself from the team. In addition, Hungary’s 2004 Olympic silver medallist Zoltan Kovago refused to take an out-of-competition test. Kovago becomes the second Hungarian discus thrower this year to commit a doping offence, following the news of Robert Fazekas testing positive.

Hopefully, these will be the first and last doping offences of the Games, and the Spirit of the Olympic Games will prevail.There is much to look forward to, and the host Nation, Great Britain, is hoping for a record haul of medals.

Alongside many other medical Games Maker volunteers, I will be working together with my colleagues to provide medical support for the athletes during the Games. This is a great opportunity for Sports Physicians in the UK to be involved with the provision of care during a home Games, and one that I am looking forward to relishing.

The last word on the Games here goes to Baron Pierre de Coubertain, second  President of the International Olympic Committee from 1896-1925, who said that “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

Enjoy London 2012.

London Prepares series – 2012 test events in full swing

With less than 300 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympics on the 27th of July, and the Paralympics on the 29th of August, London is entering the final stages of its preparation. The City has been hosting the ‘London Prepares’ test event series in advance of the games and these commenced in May this year with the 2011 UK Athletics 20km race walking championships and an invitational marathon. Since then, there have been a number of other events including equestrian, modern pentathlon, sailing, triathlon, badminton and various cycling events.

The latest treat on the calendar was the 2011 London Archery Classic held at Lords Cricket ground from the 3rd to the 10th of October, and I was on hand to view events for myself as a Sports Medicine event doctor last weekend.

Lords Cricket ground is better known in the UK and worldwide as the home of Cricket, so it was a little strange to see such a different audience in the famous old pavilion, usually occupied by members of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in their distinctive red and yellow striped jackets and sun hats. Despite the unfamiliar appearance of the spectators, this famous old venue was a wonderful place in which to see the athletes compete in the archery event. Perhaps it was fitting that, in such a prestigious place, the archers rose the occasion by putting in some excellent and memorable performances, including two new world records. Korea’s Im Dong-Hyun managed to break his own  72-arrow world record in the ranking round, scoring 693 and exceeding  his previous record by two points, and followed this up by helping to set a world record in the men’s team competition.

From the medical side of things, everything seemed to go very smoothly with no major problems, the classic representing an ideal opportunity for the medical team to get to grips with things at the venue and to make the fine adjustments necessary to systems and resources prior to the games proper.

As far as test events go, there are many to go this side of Christmas with handball, boxing, table tennis and fencing amongst others to feature. In the new year, spectators can look forward to many more competitions including gymnastics, cycling and aquatics events before some paralympics test events commencing in April.

It is always exciting to be involved in test events prior to the main spectacle to come, and it was a pleasure to be able to watch these world class athletes perform and to talk with the other support and coaching staff. I was even fortunate enough to try my hand at the sport on a much shorter range, managing to hit the target with each of my 3 arrows. Having said that, I don’t think that Im Dong-Hyun and his colleagues have much to fear.

Archery was reintroduced to the Olympic games in the 1972 Munich games following a 52 year hiatus thought to be due to a lack of uniform rules.

Ertan and Tuzun found a prevalence of injury of 56.8% in a questionnaire study of 88 archers at the 2000 Turkish archery championships, although were not specific about their definition of a reported injury. Mann and Littke reported an injury rate of 38.1 injuries per 100 competitors from a retrospective questionnaire of 21 archers who qualified for the Canadian world championship team in 1987. Most injuries are reported to occur in the upper extremities. Ertan and Tuzun found the fingers to be the most frequently reported body part to be injured, followed by the shoulder of the drawing arm. This pattern was further supported by National Electronic Injury Surveillance System findings from the US product safety commission 2007 which included hunting-related archery injuries.

Acute injuries include blisters in the fingers and contusions to the bow forearm caused by string touches, also known as ‘bow slap.’ Most archers wear protection on their bow forearm to prevent this injury. Chronic overuse injuries include tendinopathies (see Rayan G, in Southern Medical Journal) and compression neuropathies in the arm (see Toth C et al, in Sports Medicine). For a comprehensive review of the epidemiology of injury in archery, see Hildenbrand JC (IV) and Rayan GM Chapter 2 in Caine DJ et al ‘Epidemiology of Injury in Olympic Sports’ , Wiley Publishing.

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