Tom Degun: Hi-tech polyclinic ensures residents in salubrious London 2012 Athletes' Village will enjoy rude health
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
In fact, I remember the day of my last visit well – it was July 27, 2010 and it marked exactly two years to the start of the Olympic Games. Back then, which seems like an eternity ago, my colleagues in the media and I were driven through the location, which looked rather unimpressive to say the least.
I guess that was no major surprise given it was very much a building site at the time with scaffolding far more visible than the bricks of the premises.
But fast forward 23 months, and things are obviously very much different.
My visit this week coincided with London 2012 unveiling the Village's healthcare facilities: a polyclinic which will be used by residents, including athletes and team officials, during the Games.
My first thought was that getting into the Village has become more of an ordeal than I remember. After boarding a coach outside Stratford train station, we were forced to wait almost an hour at the gate while security checks were carried out. After getting off the coach, we then went through our own airport security-style checks and were forced to show our identification on more than one occasion before we were finally allowed back on the coach and through the gate.
However, it proved well worth the wait as we now had the chance to see the Village in all its glory.
The first thing the struck me was how green the whole area was given now that all the grass and trees are in place. From a distance, the apartments (pictured above) that will house the likes of sprint ace Usain Bolt and swim king Michael Phelps during the Games resemble upper-class student housing but there is no mistaking some of the stunning artwork on the balconies that will most likely be obscured by national flags once the athletes arrive.
But the colourful brickwork and patterns on the walls will fortunately remain on show for the world's cameras during the so-called "Greatest Show on Earth".
And what appears to be a typical kind of high street runs down the centre of the village which rather conveniently leads straight onto the Olympic Park less than 100 metres away.
It was not long before we arrived at the main polyclinic (pictured above) in the Village, which proved to be a pristinely clean, state-of-the-art building.
The world-class facility, created by London 2012 and Worldwide Olympic Partner GE, will be open 24/7 and boasts services for sports medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatry and primary care. It boasts medical equipment, including an MRI scanner (pictured below), among the most sophisticated available in the country and it struck me as an ideal place for athletes to visit for free dental treatment and eye check-ups. I was assured, however, that only "serious cases" would be seen at the polyclinic.
"Even the most minor ailment can have serious implications upon an elite athlete's performance," explained London 2012 director of sport Debbie Jevans, who joined us on the tour.
"We have worked hard to equip the polyclinic to respond quickly and provide athletes with the treatment they require onsite."
The facility was built at a cost of £23 million ($36 million/€28.5 million) but the big boost is that after the Games the polyclinic will be taken over by the National Health Service (NHS) and reopened as primary healthcare facility for the new community coming to live in the area.
Residents then will receive a full range of services such as a doctor's surgery, dentist and pharmacy while community facilities are likely to include a gym, cafe and youth centre.
It is reassuring to know that such a facility will enjoy a long lifespan after the Games. But, for now, it stands proudly as the London 2012 polyclinic within what is a truly amazing Athletes' Village.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.