Blogs are not edited by PJ staff*. The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Pharmaceutical Journal.
*Blog pieces that have previously been printed in the PJ and Clinical Pharmacist are edited.
Here we are, at last.
The LOCOG Polyclinic medical facilities at the three athlete villages in Stratford (Olympic Park), Eton Dorney (Rowing and sprint canoe) and Weymouth (sailing) began operation on July 9th 2012, in preparation for the arrival of the athletes and their national teams. This article is a personal reflection of this first phase of providing pharmacy clinical services for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
What is it like to be a pharmacy volunteer? There are two shifts per day (06:30 to 15:00 and 15:00 to 23:00), although many volunteers work way beyond these times. A “typical” shift for a volunteer (not that there is anything typical about this job) involves:
04:30 Wake up and grab a bite of breakfast
05:00 Travel to the athlete village, using the Oyster card provided by LOCOG. I have found Transport for London to be an excellent web site for working out your journey. It’s a strange sight, seeing a London underground escalator completely empty of people! Volunteers are required to travel in their Games Maker uniforms which, initially, attracted bemused looks from fellow travellers.
6:00 Arrive at the Athlete Village, pass through airport-type security, collect your meal voucher and head for the polyclinic
06:30 Daily briefing for all medical services volunteers
07:00 Open up the pharmacy.
Anytime between 11:30 and 15:00 volunteers go for lunch and usually take a walk around the athlete village to take in the sights and atmosphere. You never know who you might bump into.
15:00 (or whatever time you fancy working until) pass over duties to colleagues on the second shift.
A shift is not dissimilar from working in any pharmacy, involving stock ordering and control, dispensing prescriptions, answering queries from other healthcare professionals, operating minor ailments and medicines information schemes. However, you are in a unique environment where you meet people from 204 countries, many of whom require interpreters to aid communication. This work was occasionally interrupted by visits to the polyclinic of dignitaries such as the heads of the IOC Medical Commission and the medical organising team for Rio 2016.
During the period before the athletes arrived at the village, we undertook the task of setting up the pharmacies, ensuring stocks of drugs were in place not only at the polyclinics but at all the medical rooms in the competition venues. It was a fascinating experience to visit the medical facilities at the main Olympic Stadium in the Olympic Park. Having negotiated the strict security systems in place at the entrance to the Park we weaved our way through hundreds of people who were taking part in rehearsals for the opening ceremony. It was pouring with rain and they endured a very long day, mostly in the open air. From brief glimpses of the rehearsal, it should be an amazing opening ceremony.
With a workforce of over 100 pharmacy volunteers, there were inevitable problems for individuals in undertaking their role at the games whilst maintaining a full-time career, social and family life. Coordinating for the shift rosters for the volunteers has been a significant challenge. The cooperation of colleagues in overcoming difficulties has been greatly appreciated.
On July 16th, the athletes began to arrive. What a buzz developed within the village. A major focus within the pharmacy was to provide the medical prescribers from the visiting teams with prescription pads, pharmacy guides and formularies. It was very interesting talking to these colleagues and hearing about their personal experiences. It was also gratifying to receive very positive feedback about the services that we were providing. I was very impressed when Marina, a fellow pharmacy volunteer began speaking to our Brazilian friends in fluent Portuguese. Then she informed that she was born in Portugal!
The athletes, and other visitors to the pharmacy have been intrigued by the large basket of free condoms that we keep in the waiting area of the pharmacy. We need to top it up on a frequent basis!
Of course it is not all work. We have the opportunity to walk around the athlete village and share most of the facilities that are available to the athletes. In addition to open park areas, there is a plaza with shops and other recreational facilities. The athletes seem so relaxed at this time.
An important feature in the village is the a welcoming ceremony that each country receives from LOCOG, with speeches, flag-raising and the playing of the country’s national anthem. A group from the National Youth Theatre provide an accompanying song and dance routine. I was privileged to attend the first of these ceremonies, for the team from the British Virgin Islands. Being the first ceremony, Seb Coe and Tanni Grey-Thompson attended the event. I wish their team every good luck for the Games.
So far, working in the environment of an Olympic Athlete Village has been a fantastic experience. It is rewarding to see how 4 years of preparation by Mark Stuart and the LOCOG Pharmacy Planning Committee has now become a reality. It’s a real pleasure to be working alongside such a dedicated, professional and above all friendly team of colleagues. And the Games haven’t yet started!! I am really looking forward to my next scheduled week of working at the Games.