Fast lane through Customs, priority travel – now Olympic athletes get free dental care

  • @tompeck

Overseas athletes will be able to get free dental work and eye care at a specially constructed £23m Polyclinic in the Olympic Park.

The 24-hour health centre, which expects to treat 200 athletes a day, has been funded by £17m of NHS money plus £6m from the £9.3bn Olympics budget.

Organisers have stressed that athletes will receive only "immediate and necessary" treatment from medics at the Polyclinic, but the dental team expect to treat a wider range of conditions.

"We would complete and finish a root canal for someone who might not be able to get it in their own country," said Wendy Turner, one of the six dentists who will work in the clinic. "There will be competitors who haven't had much access to dental care. It is an opportunity for them to get it sorted out."

Apart from physiotherapy sessions, the dentistry and eye-care clinics are predicted to be the busiest, with around 120 eye tests performed a day and free spectacles provided where necessary.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games' (Locog) director of sport, Debbie Jevans, said: "Even the most minor ailment can have serious implications upon an elite athlete's performance. We have worked hard to equip the Polyclinic to respond quickly and provide athletes with the treatment they require on site."

After the Games, the main Polyclinic site in Stratford will be reopened as an NHS facility for local residents, though much of the state-of-the-art equipment will have been sold on.

The hospital will be staffed by 10 dedicated Locog medical staff, as well as 500 volunteers, including accident-and-emergency doctors and nurses, many of whom have taken unpaid leave to man the clinic during the Games. Some 80 specialist doctors will be on call throughout the Games. As many as 30 physiotherapists will be on shift during the day.

The facility will be for the use of only the 11,500 athletes and their coaches. Members of the public taken ill on the Olympic site will be treated at medical centres within venues and if necessary transferred to NHS hospitals elsewhere.

Locog's chairman, Lord Coe, said: "We have always put athletes' needs at the heart of the Games. When they are preparing for the most important moment in their sporting careers, it's vital they are in peak condition with all the support they need. We aim to give that medical support to help them deliver their best performance."