Can Usain Bolt et al lure EMA staff from their desks?

August 9, 2012
Philip Ward

Philip Ward is ACT's European editor, phone +44 1244 538583, philipward1@btconnect.com

Applied Clinical Trials

The Olympic Stadium is only a short distance from the EMA’s office in Canary Wharf, which can be seen on the horizon. (Photos courtesy of London 2012)

The European Medicines Agency’s office is little more than a javelin throw away from the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, and it must be hugely tempting for EMA staff to pull on their trainers and jog over to catch some of the action - particularly now summer has finally arrived in the U.K.

I don’t mean to question the commitment and dedication of the regulatory staff here. Everybody knows they’re hard-working, diligent, responsive, and professional folk. But the quality and diversity of the sport on offer at the Olympics has surely made them think once or twice about leaving their desks. They’re only human, after all.

I was lucky to be one of the first medical journalists to visit the Olympic Village in mid-June. The security was rigorous, to put it mildly. I had to wait at the entrance for 40 minutes while my appointment was verified, and during the short walk to the polyclinic, I had to show my photo ID four times and step through two security scanners. The towering barbed-wire-topped fences and numerous surveillance cameras around the complex confirmed that the organizers are serious about avoiding any terrorist incidents.

The four-story, 5000 square meter polyclinic is vast and impressive. The medical services are run by a team of 10 LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games) staff, 500 volunteers and 80 on-call specialists, and on average, 200 athletes are treated daily in the polyclinic, which is available for up to 16,000 Olympic athletes and team officials and 6,200 Paralympic athletes and team officials. It will operate 24-hours-a-day from 16 July to 15 August, and from 22 August to 12 September for the Paralympics, opening daily from 7 am until 11 pm. An out-of-hours service is run via the emergency department.

At the end of the games, the polyclinic will become a general practice surgery for residents living in the surrounding area, including the occupants of the thousands apartments built for the athletes and coaches. It will come as no surprise if some EMA staff members eventually move into the complex permanently. Given the close proximity of the agency’s office in Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, the stroll to work will be manageable.

The Olympic Flame burns in the 8.5-meter-tall cauldron designed by Thomas Heatherwick and crafted in Harrogate, U.K. The individual petals were carried in during the opening ceremony on 27 July, and they will be removed next week and given back to the teams to take home.