Sunday, 5 August 2012

Are the Olympics good for your health and wellbeing?

Regular readers will have noted that it’s been a while since my blog post. There are two very good reasons for this. Firstly there hasn’t been a healthcare topic that has grabbed me recently and secondly, far more pressing – is the Olympics.

I must confess that I started out as a bit of a doubter – I was thrilled in 2005 when London won the games but as the day dawned, anxiety kicked in. Would the opening ceremony be an embarrassment? Would I be able to get to various business meetings I had arranged in the capital? Would the Nation look foolish if security/transport/catering/anything else went wrong? This got me thinking about the wide spectrum of emotions that London 2012 facing armchair Olympians

Anxiety: Somehow I suddenly felt responsible for everything that goes on in my Capital city. This isn’t a normal state of affairs for me but never has London been under such close scrutiny. Strangely this gave me a couple of sleepless nights. I have also become anxious about getting all my work done when the multiple channels of Olympic coverage are calling me…

Stress/excitement/high blood pressure: The stress is a mixed blessing– the rowing was especially stressful but ultimately hugely rewarding for all Team GB supporters. I have proved myself to be an utter wimp, watching the final stages of each race through my fingers – as if that makes things better. Blood pressure? Those strapping young men in lycra is enough to get any girl’s pulse racing…

Joy: I’m not so partisan that I cannot enjoy success of any Olympian, whichever country they represent. However the tears of joy have flowed with alarmingly regularity every time the National Anthem is played at a medal ceremony. And the roar of the crowds as they support Team GB at every venue is guaranteed to generate goose bumps of delight. Happiness is infectious and supreme achievement is inspirational – the national endorphin levels must be sky high!

Pride: This isn’t just a deadly sin – in the right context, especially pride in others, can be highly beneficial. Pride in our countries – Britain looks stunning. Pride in our Capital City – London is perfect for the greatest show on earth. Pride in our athletes – go Team GB! Pride in the Brits - the event has been organised with impressive precision and more importantly, the British people have provided unprecedented support to their teams and are gracious hosts.

Fitness: mmm – this is a tricky one. I find the athletes incredibly inspiring in terms of their focus, determination and dedication but my friends won’t be surprised to note that I am not inspired to become an extreme sport participant. My twice weekly sessions with my personal trainer and maybe the odd run for a train is the extent of my commitment, Even worse, I hardly move away from the TV when I’m not working as the Olympic schedule is keeping me very busy and not very mobile (apart from jumping up and screaming at the screen for the last few metres of any event).

Sense of belonging: Very important for wellbeing and I hope that this fantastic event will have a huge bonding effect on the Nation. The L word, legacy, is one of the primary reasons for our successful bid and I hope that apart from improved sports facilities and participation, another legacy will be sense of community and celebration of success. The British people are famous for supporting the underdog, but let’s get used to being winners too.

The Olympics and healthcare: So to bring a tenuous link to healthcare, the opening ceremony spent some time focussing on a rather bizarre representation of the NHS (doctors and nurses dancing  around children bouncing on old fashioned hospital beds) as a way to celebrate free healthcare for all, regardless of ability to pay. Next week when the party heads towards Rio (and what a party that will be) – what should be the legacy of London 2012 for the health and wellbeing of the nation?

To celebrate what we do well, appreciate the endeavours of our team mates and peers, and build on our successes so far to create the healthcare system we deserve. No medals on offer, but plenty of goals to aim for.


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