Having volunteered at the Olympic Games in London I was selected as part of the team of eye experts for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. ! was part of the medical team which was made up of not just the obvious professionals like doctors and physios, but also podiatrists, sports massage therapists, dental teams, emergency doctors, crowd doctors, chiropractors, radiologists and of course optometrists.
In the build up to the Commonwealth games, I had spoken to many other volunteers, doing a wide variety of jobs at a whole host of venues, but I certainly felt I was the one who had landed the best role. Having the chance to work with athletes on a one to one basis in the Athletes’ Village was a real coup.
It is not fair to make comparisons between the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the London Olympics as they are different events with very different budgets but there was something very special about the atmosphere within the polyclinic in Glasgow. The four-storey purpose built clinic in London was replaced by a partitioned, one room, temporary structure. I’m spoiled with fantastic equipment at Cameron Optometry and it wasn’t quite that high tech but our area was still kitted out with everything we needed to provide first class eye care.
The eye care service was a scaled back version of the Olympic service that provided spectacles for huge numbers of athletes and officials. Our daily team consisted of an optometrist, dispensing optician and ophthalmologist. We were on hand for all emergency eye care that might be required, as well as testing some individual’s eyes for the first time in their lives as many were unable to access care at home. We also assisted with repairs and replacements of spectacles and contact lenses.
Unsurprisingly Usain Bolt didn’t come looking for an eye test but I was fortunate to chat with and treat, some truly inspirational athletes. I greatly enjoyed testing the eyes of a female badminton player from the remote Norfolk Islands who has to practice on the only court on the island. It is an adapted basketball court that is also used as a dance floor, requiring masking tape to draw out the badminton lines each time they play. I was delighted to test the eyes of a young triple jumper from Trinidad, and then watch her from my seat at Hampden the next day receive a bronze medal. My favourite moment though was my chance to share half an hour with Kip Keino. Now in his 70’s he was a double Olympic Gold medalist and world record holder, and continues to be an inspiration to Kenyans through his foundation and the orphanages he runs.
This summer I only had to travel 60 miles from my front door to feel like I’d experienced the sunshine and warmth of the entire Commonwealth.