Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 October 2014
Due to their scale, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have the potential to place significant strain on local health services. The Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012 Olympic host cities shared their experiences by publishing reports describing health care arrangements.
Olympic planning reports were compared to highlight best practices, to understand whether and which lessons are transferable, and to identify recurring health care planning issues for future hosts.
A structured, critical, qualitative analysis of all available Olympic health care reports was conducted. Recommendations and issues with implications for future Olympic host cities were extracted from each report.
The six identified themes were: (1) the importance of early planning and relationship building: clarifying roles early to agree on responsibility and expectations, and engaging external and internal groups in the planning process from the start; (2) the development of appropriate medical provision: most health care needs are addressed inside Olympic venues rather than by hospitals which do not experience significant increases in attendance during the Games; (3) preparing for risks: gastrointestinal and food-borne illnesses are the most common communicable diseases experienced during the Games, but the incidence is still very low; (4) addressing the security risk: security arrangements are one of the most resource-demanding tasks; (5) managing administration and logistical issues: arranging staff permission to work at Games venues (“accreditation”) is the most complex administrative task that is likely to encounter delays and errors; and (6) planning and assessing health legacy programs: no previous Games were able to demonstrate that their health legacy initiatives were effective. Although each report identified similar health care planning issues, subsequent Olympic host cities did not appear to have drawn on the transferable experiences of previous host cities.
Repeated recommendations and lessons from host cities show that similar health care planning issues occur despite different health systems. To improve health care planning and delivery, host cities should pay heed to the specific planning issues that have been highlighted. It is also advisable to establish good communication with organizers from previous Games to learn first-hand about planning from previous hosts.