Tight shoes, first day chaos and national pride

Tight shoes, first day chaos and national pride: BIR trustee David Wilson reflects on his volunteer Games Maker role in 2012.

On the day we won the bid to host the Olympic Games the suggestion was made that  British Society of Skeletal Radiology should offer  its services to organise imaging for the Olympics. 

A committee was formed to set up the imaging services at the various Olympic sites around the UK , and one of the members was my wife, Dr Gina Allen, who  is also a musculoskeletal radiologist.

As volunteer radiologists for the Olympics, Gina  and  I had to go through  all the same selection and induction sessions as all the other Games Makers  One day was devoted to security checks and an interview to decide whether you were of the right material for the Games.  Fortunately for us we were accepted.

Gina and I went to separate sessions, but each of us arrived home excited by the kit and uniform and we dressed up to show our family.  The uniform had the advantage of making us feel like one work force, but sadly the shoes weren’t the best of fit and started to pinch towards the end of long shifts!

The polyclinic at Stratford was set up with two MRI scanners, a CT scanner, an x-ray facility and two ultrasound machines with all imaging equipment provided by sponsors General Electric.  The building was spectacularly well appointed with many examination rooms, physiotherapy, sports massage and medicine clinics with  an open and airy feel and an  emergency room to rival the one in our regional trauma unit.   In the polyclinic we had a sports physician, a GP, a radiologist, a dentist, a dental assistant, two pharmacists, a brace of physiotherapists and sports masseurs plus on many occasions a chiropractor and osteopath.

On day one at the rowing and canoeing village at Royal Holloway College and at Wimbledon there was chaos.  Much of the equipment was still in packing cases, and most difficult of all the dentist’s chair had not been plumbed in. But it is amazing how fast these problems can be resolved when there is a will.  Within 48 hours, after a great deal of work, the Polyclinic was ready for patients.  

It has to be said that the workload was considerably lower than that we normally experience in the NHS, but the demands of the athletes in particular were far greater.  One visit, or treatment process, often involved talking to several members of the team and with the permission of the athletes we would discuss with the coach, the team Doctor and the team physiotherapist at the very least.

Travelling across the city changed entirely the experience of London travel.  When wearing a Games Maker uniform everybody felt the need to speak to you. 

One perk for Games Makers was an opportunity to watch one of  the  rehearsals of the opening ceremonies.  The television view was quite different to being in the stadium.  Even better was that every member of the audience was a Games Maker and had given time and energy to the event and it felt like being part of a very large family. 

So, was it all worth it?  It was certainly a great deal of time, effort and energy placed by all the Games Makers, especially those of us working in the NHS who on the whole were using annual leave and weekends and funding their own travel. I met a Games Maker who cheerfully sat at a security gate for 6 hours completely out of view of any of the events principally for the honour of being part of the Olympic Games.   However I did not meet anybody who resented this or felt hard done by. 

Both Gina and I were really pleased that we were part of a process that gave us great pride in being British.  The most important thing was meeting new people, feeling part of an international event and being part of an experience that changed the face of London. 

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