Thursday, July 26, 2012

Might The Olympics Inspire You To Exercise More And Eat Better? Heart Research UK Tips

It's Olympics time again and, even if we can't travel to Beijing, we can still be inspired to exercise more as we watch athletes on TV compete in almost every sport imaginable. We can also get into the Olympic spirit at home by cooking some healthy Chinese dishes and encouraging young ones to try new healthy foods and flavours.

Beyond the couch

Watching Olympians compete is great but even better if it spurs us on to exercise more; so organize a kids' mini-Olympics in your garden or local park and record their efforts as they race, hurdle over cushions, jump in the sandpit or play ball games. Arrange a swim-athon at your local pool, a long bike ride or badminton session - ask the children for ideas, they'll have plenty.

Olympic colours on a plate

Keep their energy levels up and their hearts healthy by giving them healthy snacks and meals this summer. Serve up a plate of 'Olympic rings' made from rings of red, yellow, orange, green and even brown peppers. Mini corn on the cob, mangetout, French beans, broccoli and carrot sticks are delicious with a dip or sauce - whiz up a tin of pineapple (drained) with a little yoghurt or let them make their own sauce using combinations of chopped garlic, ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and tomato sauce. Stir-fry small pieces of chicken, tofu, prawns or fish with garlic, ginger and a dash of soy sauce (it's high in salt so use it sparingly) and colour it all with sliced pepper, carrots and courgettes. Bean sprouts, pak choi and water chestnuts are tasty additions too. Serve with plenty of egg- or rice-noodles or some boiled rice and take up the chopstick challenge, you'll eat more slowly that way.

Nutritious healthy food and plenty of exercise brings out the best in athletes and will do just the same with your young ones, so make this an Olympic heart-healthy summer for all.

Heart Research UK
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Health Tips For Olympics Travelers

Attendees at the 2008 Olympics a half-a-world away, Aug. 8-24, will experience a cultural jolt and may have some concerns about their health. Richard Lee, M.D., University at Buffalo professor of medicine, is a specialist in geographic medicine and travels frequently to China. He returned from there recently and in the following Q&A offers suggestions for international travelers headed for Beijing.

Q. Do I need special immunizations to go to China?

A. If you are going only to Beijing, you need the basic ones -- rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio. Hepatitis A -- infectious hepatitis -- is still a problem all over China, so no raw oysters or clams. If traveling beyond Beijing into the countryside, you should be immunized against typhoid and hepatitis B.

Q. Can I drink the water?

A. Tap water isn't safe. Buy good bottled water. Showering and bathing with tap water is OK, and brushing teeth, but no swallowing.

Q. Should bird flu be a concern for people attending the Olympics, or is it a problem only in the countryside?

A. Avian Flu H5N1 is still a problem in China -- mostly in the south where it has become embedded in the poultry. It is not a big risk in Beijing, but I would advise visitors to be wary about "wet markets" where birds and animals -- and people -- are jammed together, cheek by jowl. My advice is to not touch birds, or uncooked bird flesh, or play with the cats that prowl these markets (cats can carry the H5N1 virus).

Q. Chinese food is delicious, but are there ingredients to be wary of ?

A. The Chinese cook food well, including street food, so if it's cooked in front of you and it's hot, it's OK. Fruit on the street? You don't know where it's been, but if it is unpeeled, it's OK. Be cautious about salads. They probably are OK at a 5-star hotel, but I'd rather eat stir-fried vegetables.

Q. I've heard the Chinese are fond of dog meat.

A. Dog meat is off the menu during the Olympics, because people from outside China are offended, so you don't have to worry about that, but there are cat specialty restaurants. Speaking of dogs, there are lots of feral dogs and rabies is a problem. You can't cozy-up to a dog. If one approaches you, pick up a rock or a stick.

Q. News stories about Beijing's air quality are scary. Is the air that bad?

A. The air quality can be awful. Sometimes there is a bright sunny day, but the smog can be pretty bad. Indoor air is just as bad, or worse. Tobacco still has a grip on China, and there are few limitations on where people can smoke. If you have respiratory problems requiring oxygen, don't go.

Q. China being a totalitarian state, do attendees need to be careful what they say or do?

A. There will be rules about rowdy behavior, nationalistic flags, banners, chants, etc., so entry to Olympic events will be carefully policed. Be prepared to be bossed around. There will be strict rules about what you can take on the subway and into the stadium. You will want to follow the rules: A Chinese pokey is not noted for its luxury. Other than that, there is little street crime and Beijing generally is a pretty safe place. You can walk on the streets at night without worry.

Q. What do you think visitors will find most surprising about Beijing?

A. China has become fashion conscious! Elegant dress and trendy dress are common. There are lots of expensive shops, but the antique open air market and the Pearl Markets are fun, crowded and less expensive.

Bargaining is a necessity, and expected. Chinese pharmacies of traditional medicine are also something to observe. And if visitors do get sick, health care in Beijing can be superb. Many of the specialty hospitals have UK, U.S. and European Union-trained doctors and, with the burst in capital, Beijing has state of the art imaging and technology.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is one of the five schools comprising UB's Academic Health Center. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

University at Buffalo
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Special Issue Celebrates 40 Years Of Drug Testing At The Olympics

It is almost exactly 40 years since drug tests were first conducted at the Olympic Games. Now they are an unfortunate but essential facet of the Games. Scientific advances, and advances in mass spectrometry in particular, have enabled the authorities to keep pace with attempts by drug cheats to avoid detection. The latest developments in the use of mass spectrometry for sports drug testing are highlighted in a special issue of the European Journal of Mass Spectrometry.

The special issue has been edited by Mario Thevis of the Center for Preventive Doping Research, German Sport University Cologne and contains papers from leading experts from doping control laboratories throughout Europe.

Currently, more than 500 prohibited drugs can be detected by means of "conventional" chromatographic/mass spectrometric approaches, and numerous additional doping violations including the misuse of endogenous hormones such as testosterone or peptides and proteins can be identified by more specialised analysers such as isotope-ratio or high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometers. The great variety of assays employed by sports drug testing laboratories and the continuous search for more efficient, comprehensive and retrospective methods demonstrates the complexity of doping controls and the need to cover the most diverse classes of analytes including lipids, carbohydrates, peptides, proteins, and other low- and high-molecular weight xenobiotics. Consequently, sports drug testing has always been highly dynamic, and current and future challenges as well as suggested solutions are described in this special issue.

Mario Thevis explains, "Major goals of research in sports drug testing are to close gaps, which cheating athletes might use to illicitly increase their performance, and to develop detection strategies for new, emerging drugs that possess potential for misuse when becoming commercially available. Preventive doping research is a central aspect that allows drug testing authorities to catch up with those sportsmen that might take the bait of a new compound, which they consider undetectable."

A new class of agents has been added to the list of prohibited substances and methods of doping in 2008: the selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs). Although not yet clinically approved, WADA banned these compounds from sports and a new detection method as well as a strategy to prepare and characterise a target metabolite in doping control urine specimens is described in this special issue of European Journal of Mass Spectrometry.

"Fast, comprehensive, and unambiguous screening and confirmation methods are of great importance and benefit for routine doping controls. In particular, in light of the continuously increasing number of analytes, the limited sample volume and the need to rapidly report analytical results during great sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the development of new and/or improvement of existing mass spectrometry-based assays is always highly appreciated," said Mario Thevis.

The special issue also describes the utility of ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) combined with mass spectrometry, which offers the possibility to accelerate drug testing procedures for diuretics and other doping agents. In addition, optimised sample preparation steps combined with dedicated LC-MS/MS setups enable the rapid detection and separation of numerous stimulants. Finally, a screening procedure potentially allowing for a pre-selection of urine samples for time-consuming erythropoietin (EPO) analysis is presented, which is based on the determination of low molecular weight parameters that are influenced by EPO applications.

About European Journal of Mass Spectrometry

The European Journal of Mass Spectrometry (EJMS) is a peer review journal published by IM Publications ( It publishes high-quality, original research papers on all areas of mass spectrometry. Mass spectrometry is widely used throughout industry and academe and has found particularly application in recent years in the pharmaceutical industry and the field of proteomics. It is also an essential part of the drug testing armoury.
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Beijing Olympics Air Pollution Change Impacted On People's Health

A study featured in the May 16 edition of JAMA shows that changes in air pollution during the 2008 Beijing Olympics were related to changes in biomarkers of systemic inflammation and thrombosis, in addition to measure of cardiovascular physiology in healthy young people.

The study's background information states:

"Air pollution is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), but the mechanisms by which air pollution leads to CVD is not well understood. Hypothesized mechanisms with associated biomarkers include systemic inflammation and thrombosis or endothelial [thin layer of cells that line the heart and certain vessels and cavities within the body] dysfunction.

As a condition for hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government agreed to temporarily and substantially improve air quality in Beijing for the Olympics and subsequent Paralympics. This provided a unique opportunity to use a quasi-experimental design in which exposures and biomarkers were measured at baseline (pre-Olympics), following a change in pollution (during-Olympics), and then repeated after an expected return to baseline (post-Olympics)."

David Q. Rich, Sc.D., of New York's Rochester University, and his team decided to perform a study to examine whether markers linked to CVD pathophysiological pathways, i.e. biomarkers for systemic inflammation and thrombosis, heart rate and blood pressure are sensitive to changes in air pollution.

The team took daily measurements of air pollutants and measured various biomarkers, including heart rate and blood pressure in 125 healthy young adults before, during and after the 2008 Olympics, i.e. from June 2 until October 30. The various biomarkers included measures linked to systemic inflammation, such as fibrinogen, C-reactive protein [CRP] and white blood cell [WBC] count, as well as thrombosis or endothelial dysfunction, i.e. platelet activation markers P-selectin [sCD62P] and soluble CD40 ligand [sCD40L], and the adhesive endothelial glycoprotein von Willebrand factor.

The team noted that the concentrations of particulate and gaseous pollutants dropped significantly from -13% to -60% from the pre-Olympic to the during-Olympic period. The reductions during this period were noted as an average concentration of sulfur dioxide (-60%), carbon monoxide (-48%), nitrogen dioxide (-43%), elemental carbon (-36%), PM2.5 (-27%), organic carbon (-22%), and sulfate (-13%) from the pre-Olympic to the during-Olympic period.

The researchers state:

"In contrast, ozone concentrations increased (24 percent). Pollutant concentrations generally increased substantially from the during- to post-Olympic period for all the pollutants (21 percent to 197 percent) except ozone (-61 percent) and sulfate (-47 percent)."

Statistically, important improvements were noted in SCD62P levels by -34.0%, and in the von Willebrand factor by -13.1%. After adjusting for multiple variables, the changes in other outcomes did not prove to be statistically important.

The researchers noted that when pollutant concentrations increased in the post-Olympic period, most outcomes averaged pre-Olympic levels, aside from the sCD62P levels and systolic blood pressure levels, which were substantially worse than compared with the during-Olympic period. In a concluding statement the researchers write:

"The fraction of above-detection-limit values for CRP was reduced from 55 percent in the pre-Olympic period to 46 percent in the during-Olympic period and reduced further to 36 percent in the post-Olympic period. Interquartile range increases in pollutant concentrations were consistently associated with statistically significant increases in fibrinogen, von Willebrand factor, heart rate, sCD62P, and SCD40L concentrations. Although these findings are of uncertain clinical significance, this study provides quasi-experimental, mechanistic data to support the argument that air pollution may be a global risk factor for CVD."

Editorial: China's Air Quality Dilemma - Reconciling Economic Growth With Environmental Protection

In an associated editorial, Francesca Dominici, Ph.D., and Murray A. Mittleman, M.D., Dr.P.H., from Boston's Harvard School of Public Health write:

"China's dilemma, like many countries with emerging industries, is how to reconcile rapid economic growth with environmental protection. In recent decades, China has achieved industrialization and urbanization. However, China has been much less successful in maintaining the quality of urban air. Several factors challenge the implementation of air pollution controls in China: heavy reliance on coal as a main heating system, especially in subsidized housing; lack of political incentives for trading slower growth for less pollution; economic factors: most Chinese factories and power plants run on extremely thin margins and fines for polluting are generally lower than the cost of controlling emissions; and economic transformation of the landscape, from ubiquitous construction sites to the rapid expansion of the nation's vehicle fleet.

If air pollution in China and other Asian nations cannot be controlled, it could spread to other continents. A recent study by Lin et al provides compelling evidence that Asian emissions may account for as much as 20 percent of ground-level pollution in the United States. Clean air is a shared global resource. It is in the common interest to maintain air quality for the promotion of global health."
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Are Hospitals And Doctors Prepared For The Upcoming Olympics?

The Olympics, the world's largest sporting event, which starts on July 27, is a reminder for medical and dental practices to ensure they are adequately prepared in terms of staffing and transport issues.

It is crucial that preparations are already underway in light of the additional influx of visitors in London, with over 14,000 competing athletes from around the world and 10.8 million available tickets to see the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the rising anticipation across the country before the games, the UK-wide medical and dental defense organization MDDUS urges practices to be prepared for any disruptions during the Games. According to MDDUS in-house employment law adviser Janice Sibbald, it is not too late to ensure that practices are ready to cope with any potential challenges to safeguard a smooth run during the Games.

She states:

"Although the Olympics are fast approaching, there is still time to prepare your practice for any eventualities. One important first step is to clarify the staffing needs of the practice and ensure policies are up-to-date, especially those on absence, holidays and flexible working. If your practice is situated near a Games venue or a travel hotspot, then this may have an adverse impact and present challenges to employees and patients. There will be unprecedented pressure on transport services, with travel to and from the practice likely to be disrupted. Staff may be able to reduce any non-essential travel during peak hours or flexible working arrangements may be introduced for the duration of the Games."

Sibbald adds that some employees may have already requested to take time off during the event, whilst others may even be working as volunteers and practices should therefore be prepared that they may be asked for 'last-minute' time off as the Olympic fever builds.

She recommends: "If an employee is requesting annual leave, as a minimum the practice must comply with its obligations under Working Time Regulations. For every day of holiday required, employees should give employers at least twice as much notice, so to request two days' leave they need to give four days' notice. However, there may be different provisions set out in your contract or holiday policy and these should be adhered to. While it is in the practice's best interests to try and be accommodating to any requests during the Games, if the request cannot be accepted, the employee should receive counter notice of the refusal as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. In the absence of any practice policy on the matter, the counter notice must be given at least one day in advance for every day of leave requested, i.e. two days' counter notice if refusing a request for two days' annual leave."

Practice managers should also consider that they might encounter a loss of productivity during certain events in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sibbald continues:

"Practices should be alert to the possibility of employees trying to watch lengthy coverage at work on TV, smart phones or on their computers. Again, it may be that flexible working arrangements are agreed for the short-term. For example, it may be possible to allow some flexible working during high-profile events such as a final in track and field or an event where British hopes of a medal are high. Of course, this can only be done if the staffing levels allow. There will be employees who have no interest at all in the Olympics and it is essential for the practice to consider this so that managers are not left open to accusations of showing favoritism towards those who are interested in the Games."

Sibbald's final advice is: "It's not just the athletes that need to prepare ahead of the Olympics, practices can ensure things go smoothly off the track as well as on it."
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Germs At The Olympics - Ways To Prevent Illness In Large Crowds

The Olympic Games in London attracts huge crowds of visitors from all around the world, who carry a world-class array of germs with them.

Gregory Poland, M.D., an expert for infectious disease from the Mayo Clinic offers advice on how people can protect themselves against illness avoiding illness in mass gatherings, such as the Olympics, professional sports games, conventions, arena concert or other major events.

Dr. Poland, the Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic says:

"The big ones that we're worried about in terms of the Olympics are things that are currently epidemic in certain parts of the world, including the U.S. Those would include pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and of course, when you have people coming from the Southern Hemisphere, this is their influenza season."

The risk of infection automatically increases at mass gatherings, especially when these gatherings involve people from all over the world, as different countries may have different immunization programs and do not always have the same standards of personal cleanliness or food safety, he adds.

Large crowds also increase the risk of respiratory disease like tuberculosis, but also vermin like head lice and bedbugs, food-related illness, such as E. coli and salmonella, and hepatitis A and traveler's diarrhea, as well as skin conditions like athlete's foot and staph infections.

To lower the risk of infection, Dr. Poland offers the following advice:

Make sure your vaccines are up to date! The most important are vaccines for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), seasonal flu shot and a relatively new vaccine called Tdap to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough), which is particularly important as epidemics of whooping cough are occurring in the U.S. and the rest of the world, whilst the UK and other parts of Europe also recently had measles outbreaks.

Always wash your hands! Use soap and hot water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, particularly before leaving a restroom, touching your face or eating. Wash your hands for about 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." In public restrooms, use a paper towel to turn off the water tap and to use the door handle for opening the door when you leave, as both water taps and water taps house multitudes of germs.

Be careful what you eat! Do not eat food that is not cooked well, boiled or peeled and select food that requires little handling when prepared. Make sure hot food is served hot and cold food is served cold, and check that dishes and utensils are clean.

Protect your feet! Wear swim shoes or swim socks when using public showers, pools or wet areas to protect against athlete's foot and other fungus.

Avoid public pools! Swimming pools, hot tubs or whirlpools are not always properly maintained and it is often difficult to tell whether a hot tub or whirlpool is sanitary. If not, there is a risk of bacterial, skin and pulmonary infections.

Do not smoke! Smoking increases the chances of contracting Legionnaires' disease when exposed to the legionella bacteria, and it can also make you more susceptible to general respiratory diseases.

Do not try on hats or baseball caps! To minimize the risk of getting head lice, seal headwear in a plastic bag to bring your purchase home and then either freeze it for several days or wash before wearing.

Check your beds! Before you unpack, look for bedbugs and only place your luggage on wooden surfaces or in the bathtub, never on the floor, bed, chair or couch until you are sure that there are no unwanted visitors lurking.

Look after your health! Move away or ask to be reseated if someone near you is obviously ill. If a server's hands touch your food or the rim of your glass or cup, don't be embarrassed or hesitant to ask for a new serving or eat somewhere else. If you have recently been at mass gatherings like the Olympics and don't feel well, do not hesitate to seek medical attention.

Dr. Poland stresses:

"If you do develop signs of illness, you need to be evaluated. You don't know if it's a simple virus, a complicated virus, bacteria, or even unfortunately, with this many people from around the world something of greater concern such as tuberculosis."

He concludes saying that it is important to follow the advice to protect yourself. However, there is no need to take precautions to the extreme like wearing a facemask in public unless you are ill or there is a known epidemic.
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Do Olympics And Major Sports Events Benefit Or Harm Local People? No Evidence Either Way

Are the costs involved in hosting major multi-sport events, such as the Olympic, beneficial or detrimental to the local population? According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today, there is insufficient evidence to make a conclusion either way. The authors are calling on decision-makers to make sure that comprehensive evaluations are ready for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, so that it is evident that costs "can be justified in terms of benefits to the host population."

Decision-makers have always argued that bidding for these sports events are worth it, because of the wide range of benefits for the host population, the authors say. Benefits include employment advantages, skills, an economic boost, improved housing, national and local pride, the environment and sport - collectively termed the legacy.

Lead author, Dr Gerry McCartney, a specialist in public health from Glasgow, Scotland, wonders whether events like the Olympics do help local people.

McCartney and team examined 54 studies that assessed the health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events. The researchers claim that the quality of most of the studies were deficient and at risk of bias. They add that there were large gaps in a number of outcomes evaluated, especially health.

"There is not sufficient evidence to confirm or refute expectations about the health or socioeconomic benefits for the host population of previous major multi-sport events ... future events such as the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics, or the 2014 Commonwealth Games, cannot be expected to automatically provide benefits," the authors conclude.

They maintain that better long-term assessments are required before justifications about costs can be attributed to host population benefits.

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Mike Weed from Canterbury Christ Church University, writes that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will cost more than £9 billion ($13.5 billion), £150 ($225) for every man, woman and child in Great Britain.

Weed argues that "the risk for the UK population is not that we will not get the benefits for our £150 a head investment in London 2012, but that there will be no robust evidence of what we have paid for."

"Research: The health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events: systematic review (1978-2008)"
Gerry McCartney, Sian Thomas, Hilary Thomson, John Scott, Val Hamilton, Phil Hanlon, David S Morrison, Lyndar Bond
BMJ 2010;340:c2369

Editorial: "How will we know if the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics benefit health?"
Mike Weed
BMJ 2010;340:c2202
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New Model Developed To Anticipate Disease Outbreaks At 2012 Olympics

A research team led by St. Michael's Hospital's Dr. Kamran Khan is teaming up with British authorities to anticipate and track the risk for an infectious disease outbreak at the London Olympics this summer.

For the first time, experts from around the world are working together to integrate technologies and disease surveillance at both local and global levels.

"Systems that track infectious diseases at the global level are poorly connected to those at the local level," said Dr. Khan, lead author of a paper published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. "But by integrating them, we can create a novel and more effective approach to preventing infectious disease risks at mass gatherings, such as the Olympics."

Traditional surveillance efforts have mostly focused on the host city and country of a mass gathering to detect and quickly arrange for medical and public health responses. However, new technologies that look at how people move within a mass gathering offer insights into how the spread of disease can be affected by crowd behaviour.

For this piece, the authors have drawn on expertise from colleagues in Britain and Saudi Arabia, which hosts the Hajj pilgrimage, the world's largest annual mass gathering of approximately three million pilgrims.

This technology is combined with Dr. Khan's Bio.Diaspora - a system that uses air traffic patterns to predict the spread of infectious disease - and new internet-based tools that can detect disease outbreaks in real-time. Together, this knowledge can help direct surveillance efforts globally to specific cities and outbreaks that pose the greatest risk to a mass gathering, even before the event starts.

"Connecting all the pieces offers us early detection of global outbreak events, an assessment of how likely these events are to enter the mass gathering venue, and an understanding of the local implications of what imported disease might do and how best to mitigate those risks," Khan said.

Bringing together the different models has involved assembling a worldwide group of specialists, including experts from WHO, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Canada.

This new approach "could produce the first real-time risk monitoring and assessment platform to strengthen awareness of global infectious disease threats before, during and immediately after mass gatherings," the authors said.
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In The Birthplace Of The Olympics, Special Olympics And UNICEF Join Efforts To Fight Marginalization Of Children With Disabilities

Against the backdrop of Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Special Olympics and UNICEF today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their joint commitment to uphold the rights, dignity and inclusion of children with disabilities.

At a special ceremony, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake pledged to deepen their partnership, working more closely together to combat the legal, social and physical barriers that exclude children with disabilities from full participation.

"Children with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as all children, and the same right to make the most of their potential," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF's Executive Director. "The denial of that right is a loss, not only for those children, but for our societies. And it is unconscionable. By strengthening the partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF, we will help to protect this right for more children with disabilities, and in so doing, enable them to contribute even more to their communities and countries."

Children with disabilities are frequently the targets of discrimination and neglect, and denied essential services such as basic healthcare, education and other social welfare provisions. Negative societal attitudes also expose children with disabilities to greater risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. Tackling the discrimination that keeps children with disabilities on the margins of society is critical to including them as equal and active members of their communities.

Since 2007 UNICEF and Special Olympics have worked together to raise awareness of the abilities and rights of children with intellectual disabilities, change perceptions and challenge negative attitudes. Together, the two organizations promote the participation and empowerment of children with intellectual disabilities and their families worldwide, and seek to build their self-reliance, confidence and advocacy skills through sport programming, and related health and social services.

"We are honored to welcome UNICEF to join us here in Athens at our World Games and with us to issue this critical call to action for inclusion," said Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. "As these athletes take the world stage, this is the perfect time to expand the partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF, redoubling our efforts to achieve even greater results for our athletes and their families, and for all children with disabilities."

In recent years, UNICEF and Special Olympics have worked together to establish the first Family Support Networks for families with children with intellectual disabilities in Cambodia; to provide opportunities for children in Jamaica to participate in Young Athletes programmes; and to provide health screenings, counseling on nutrition, and family health education in several locations throughout Kazakhstan.

Currently working together in 15 countries, including Greece, UNICEF and Special Olympics will work to expand the geographical reach of their collaborative efforts. One top priority is to encourage governments to ratify and implement the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first human rights treaty of the 21st century and the first legally binding instrument with comprehensive protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, including children. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, by May, 2011 100 countries had already ratified the Convention.

The partnership will also aim to integrate children and young people with disabilities into mainstream society. Toward this end, UNICEF is supporting the Global Youth Activation Summit, which is being held in Athens concurrently with Special Olympics World Summer Games. Organized by Special Olympics, the Summit brings together young people both with and without disabilities, from 30 countries. With a special focus on fostering inclusion and diversity, the Global Youth Summit pairs these young leaders to develop strategies designed to change people's perceptions about disability and to challenge negative attitudes.

"To me, attending the Global Youth Activation Summit is a great opportunity to know what Special Olympics athletes are experiencing all around the world. I believe grouping all our ideas is the best way to come up with solutions in order to understand the athletes and one another," said Wai Tsun "Hazel" Law, a 15-year-old participant from Hong Kong. "Then, we can bring these back to school so that we can take the lead together and spread the messages of respect and acceptance to the whole community."

Special Olympics
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Sex Trafficking Surge During Olympics - UNISON Women Delegates Demand Action, England

UNISON is calling for cross-agency action to prevent sex trafficking, prostitution and violence spiralling during the 2012 London Olympics.

Hundreds of delegates from across the UK, representing UNISON's one million women members, voted in favour of a motion at UNISON Women's Conference, to put the issue high on the union's agenda.

Delegates heard how prostitution has historically surged during large sporting events. And Vice squad officers have already detected an increase in the number of trafficked women working in the five Olympic boroughs in London with heightened concern over a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

The UK's largest public sector union will work with women's organisations in the lead up to the games and fight to save women's refuges and services, which are often top of the list when it comes to local authority spending cuts.

Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, said:

"We have to make sure that sporting achievement is the main focus of the London 2012 Olympics, not the exploitation of women.

"The demand for prostitution and the amount of sex trafficking has historically risen around major sporting events, due to the huge number of site workers, spectators and athletes.

"Legalisation or de-criminalisation is not the answer. Women need support to help them create a life outside of prostitution, whilst the traffickers, pimps and men who buy their services should receive punishments which leave them in no doubt that sexual slavery has no place in today's society.

"Prostitution is not a sport - it is sexual exploitation, a violation of human rights and a bleak demonstration of women's continuing inequality - to pretend that women choose prostitution is to deny reality.

"The average age of women become prostitutes is just 13, and the vast majority of women involved are trafficked or are forced into prostitution by poverty, drug abuse or other life circumstances outside of their control.

"Now is the time to create cross-agency action to fight against exploitation. We want to work with women's organisations and anti-trafficking groups in the lead up to the Olympics. Now is not the time to cut funding to women's refuges and other services which are often a woman's only means of escape."

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Sport and Exercise Medicine and the Olympic Health Legacy

London 2012 is the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to explicitly try and develop socioeconomic legacies for which success indicators are specified – the highest profile of which was to deliver a health legacy by getting two million more people more active by 2012. This editorial highlights how specialists in Sport and Exercise Medicine can contribute towards increasing physical activity participation in the UK,
as well as how the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine might be a useful vehicle for delivering an Olympic health legacy. Key challenges are also discussed such as acquisition of funding to support new physical activity initiatives, appropriate allocation of resources, and how to assess the impact of legacy

Keywords: physical activity, chronic disease, primary prevention, rehabilitation, Olympic legacy


"The success of the Olympic Games depends in no small measure on the legacy it leaves the world" [1].

Event legacy has become an increasingly important aspect of hosting the Olympic Games since its revival in 1896. Early impacts of the Games were typically assessed through changes in sporting or local infrastructure. Nowadays, the focus is much broader, including themes such as culture, economy, environment, image, nostalgia and health. A key feature of the successful London 2012 bid was the commitment to creating a lasting health legacy through a large-scale and sustained increase in sport and physical activity participation [2].

The importance of physical activity in preventing and treating many diseases and conditions is indisputable, as documented in the current physical activity guidelines for the United Kingdom [3].

Unfortunately, modern physical and social environments discourage regular physical activity, with only 39% of men and 29% of women in the UK meeting minimum physical activity recommendations when measured
subjectively and about 5% when measured objectively [4].

Countering these influences will require a coordinated approach involving multiple societal, institutional, and departmental collaborations. Specialists in Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) can help [5].

The establishment of SEM as a new medical specialty in 2005 was an important step in the Olympic health legacy commitment, along with the development of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM). This article describes how SEM Specialists and the NCSEM will work towards increasing physical activity participation in the UK, as well as some of the challenges that might be faced.

How can Sport and Exercise Medicine Specialists help?

Specialists in SEM are trained in education, physical activity and chronic disease, exercise physiology, public health, general practice and musculoskeletal medicine, and are therefore well equipped to lead initiatives focussed on increasing physical activity participation. Ways in which they can do this have recently been proposed [5], including:

i. Providing education to primary and secondary care teams so that exercise prescription is prioritised within the patient’s healthcare experience and consistent, evidence-based, effective physical activity advice is provided.

ii. Establishing multidisciplinary teams to provide a single point of referral for patients identified as requiring specialist help, e.g. those with complex medical problems and those requiring specialist help to effect behavioural change.

iii. Working with the fitness industry to maximise accessibility of supported exercise to all patients irrespective of age, co-morbidity, social and cultural position.

iv. Providing a specialist service including clinical exercise testing and risk assessment for those with exercise intolerance, those with co-morbidity, those with chronic pain and pre-operative patients to assess anaesthetic risk.

v. Providing advice on effective physical activity interventions and injury prevention and treatment in the workplace.

The National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine

The NCSEM was launched in January 2012 as part of the health legacy of the London Games. It has a remit to ensure SEM works towards the benefit of health and wellbeing. The NCSEM comprises three partners: Sheffield, London, and the East Midlands. The Department of Health has pledged £30 million to support the
development of a capital infrastructure nationally, with £10 million going to each partner. This funding will support the co-location of SEM specialists, allied health practitioners, researchers and patients to enhance the delivery of SEM across the UK.

The specific themes of work will likely differ between the three centres. In Sheffield, the NCSEM is providing a vehicle for key stakeholders to come together to create a legacy programme to establish the city as ‘The City of Physical Activity’ over the next 20 years and to inform the participation legacy of future Olympic Games.

Sponsorship investment in evidence-based initiatives and ‘ground-breaking’ programmes is currently being sought (July 2012). A comprehensive description of the work programme is beyond the scope of this editorial; however, Table 1 describes seven initiatives that might be considered the “best investments in physical activity” [6].

Table 1. Examples of evidence-based physical activity initiatives included in the Sheffield NCSEM work programme (based on [6]).


There is an assumption when using the term ‘Olympic legacy’ that there will be a positive outcome, which is not always the case. In the context of the London Olympic health legacy, it is quite possible that investments will prove ineffective in raising participation in sport and physical activity. Indeed, it is often quoted that no previous Games have been successful in this respect [7].

Several challenges must be overcome for the London Games to avoid falling into this category. In the light of the current economic climate, a key challenge is the attainment of adequate funding to support a physical activity participation legacy. Low cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is probably the World’s most important non communicable disease public health risk factor. When considered alongside other all cause mortality risk factors, low CRF is of greater importance than the combined risks of smoking, obesity and diabetes [8]. The financial burden of physical inactivity to the UK alone has been estimated to be in the region of £7 billion/year [3]. Maintaining the status quo is simply not sustainable, a point made by Wanless as long ago as
2002 [9]. The inevitable implication, given that there is no new resource, is to redirect current resources. This is a significant challenge for health care commissioners, who naturally want evidence of a potential return of any investment before reallocating resource. Early results from the Be Active programme in
Birmingham suggest that this is achievable [10].

The next challenge is to ensure resource is allocated appropriately. A key ambition of the previous Labour Government's legacy action plan was to get two million more people more active by 2012 [2]. The Coalition Government has since dropped the 7 physical activity target and recent data from the Active People Survey (the chosen measure for this legacy outcome) suggest there is little chance of the sport goal being met; only 111,800 more adults (~11% of one million target) are participating in sport since 2007/8 [11]. So where have things gone wrong? Experts have suggested that this is probably due to an over-emphasis on the achievements and heroism of elite athletes to motivate and inspire (known as the ‘demonstration effect’) as well as the majority of investment going towards developing sport facilities, neither of which are likely to engage people [7, 12]. In Sheffield, we are building on the idea that a health legacy needs to be leveraged through a unified and city-wide approach that supports evidence-based initiatives (e.g. Table 1) targeting specific outcomes and by promoting the 2012 Games as a significant national celebration that transcends sport and is relevant to local communities, with benefits of participation linked to community participation rather than health – in short, by leveraging a ‘festival effect’ [7]. Our models suggest that our proposed investments will ultimately be cost-saving (e.g. [13]). Time will tell.

Another major challenge is “how will we know if the Games have benefitted health?”

Key issues here are those of “attribution” and “additionality”. For the former, it has been suggested that evaluation should not depend on generic national surveys, such as the Active People Survey [11], because any changes cannot be attributed to London 2012 participation initiatives [14]. Furthermore, such surveys cannot provide evidence of “additionality”, meaning they cannot show that London 2012 programmes have increased physical activity/health to levels greater than could have been achieved by investment in alternative interventions. A broader description of these issues is provided by Professor Mike Weed in a recent Editorial [14]. Here he recommends that evaluation should focus on directly attributable effects and that
detailed alternative scenarios, outlining what would have been most likely to happen in the absence of London 2012 initiatives, must be modelled for comparison purposes [14].


Delivering a broad and sustained legacy of physical activity and health from the London 2012 Games is an ambitious target, especially since there is no evidence that previous Games have been successful in this respect. Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that increases in physical activity participation in the lead up to London 2012 have been glacial at best. Although it is late in the day in terms of using the Olympic Games as a vehicle for increasing the health of UK citizens, opportunities still exist and in particular through the development of the NCSEM. Although the specific work programmes of each of the three NCSEM partner locations are still being clarified, it is clear that the specialty of Sport and Exercise Medicine has the
potential to establish itself as a key player in the promotion of physical activity in the UK. The importance of physical activity in preventing and treating many diseases and conditions is indisputable. The challenge now is for those who hold the purse strings to be convinced of the need to invest to save and for key stakeholders to make the best use of any resources that become available. To achieve this, robust evaluation of current and future programmes is required with a focus on cost-benefit and 'real-cash returns' for those responsible for commissioning healthcare.

List of abbreviations

CRF Cardio-respiratory fitness
NCSEM National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine
SEM Sport and Exercise Medicine

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Author contributions

GAT, RJC and SHT all contributed to manuscript preparation and approved the final draft for submission.
Authors’ information GAT is a BASES accredited sport and exercise scientist (physiology research) and a
Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University. RJC is a Reader in Physical Activity and Health in the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University. He is a British Psychological Society chartered psychologist and is project lead for Sheffield's
National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine. SHT is a Consultant in Rheumatology/Sport & Exercise Medicine at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Clinical Lead for Sheffield’s National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine.


[1] Turin Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games: Sustainability report 2006: Volume 2. 2006.
[2] Department of Culture, Media and Sport: Before, during and after: making the most of the London 2012 Games. 2008.
[3] Department of Health: Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. 2011.
[4] Health Survey for England: Volume 1, Physical activity and fitness. 2008.
[5] National Health Service: Sport and Exercise Medicine: A Fresh Approach. 2012.
[6] Global Advocacy for Physical Activity (GAPA) the Advocacy Council of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH): NCD Prevention: Investments that Work for Physical Activity. 2011.
[7] Weed M, Coren E, Fiore J, Mansfield L, Wellard I, Chatziefstathiou D, Dowse S: A systematic review of the evidence base for developing a physical activity and health legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Department of Health 2009. 11
[8] Blair SN: Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. Br J Sports Med 2009, 43:1-2.
[9] Wanless D: Securing Our Future Health: Taking a Long-Term View. HM
Treasury 2002.
[10] Marsh K, Bertranou E, Samanta K: Cost-benefit analysis and social impact
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What are the Top Supplements for Olympic Weightlifters (and can they help me)?

A shake is a great way to increase your protein intake, especially when you're training.

If you ask an Olympic weightlifter what he or she benches, you're going to get a sigh in response.

There are no deadlifts or bench presses in Olympic weightlifting. There are two -- and only two -- lifts in the sport today: the snatch and the clean and jerk. It isn't like power lifting, which is all about brute strength.

Olympic weightlifting is a very technical sport, and in addition to the strength needed for its explosive moves, according to four-time national champion lifter Chandler Alford, flexibility is key. "With the exception of gymnasts, Olympic weightlifters are the most flexible people in the world," says Alford, who's completed 13 seasons as an Olympic weightlifter, won four national championships and is a USA Weightlifting Level I certified coach.

To lift a terrifically heavy weight from the ground and hold it over your head in one second, your body has to be in top shape. And to get to that peak performance level, you have to treat your body like the highly efficient machine it is.

You have to give it the right fuel.

Unlike in 1896, when the first modern Olympics took place, in 2012 there a wide variety of supplements an athlete has access to that all claim to give a competitive edge. On one end of the spectrum, we have multivitamins and whey protein. On the other, anabolic steroids and hGH (human growth hormone).

The latter are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose guidelines the Olympics committees follow. You can access the full list of prohibited substances on the group's Web site. Growth factors, fat burners, hormone modulators, masking agents -- they're all no-nos. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) uses similar guidelines.

So, assuming that an athlete follows the rules and stays away from the juice, what are the top supplements for Olympic weightlifters? Let's find out.

Tips for Taking Supplements

The top supplement for Olympic weightlifters is ... (drumroll, please): no supplement at all. It's about eating right. As Alford said, "Supplements are just that: supplements. They are not substitutes. Nothing can replace the goodness of whole foods."

Try first to reach your goal nutritionally. Get lots of protein to build muscle. Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three big ones. Be careful with your carbs. Manage your meals around your workout schedule.

The purpose of a supplement is to make up for your deficits. If, for example, you need a ton of protein but just can't choke down the requisite amount of roasted chicken, mixing some whey protein into a shake is another way to get those nutrients.

One of the problems with supplements is that they're not regulated by the FDA in the same way that drugs are. The FDA will yank supplements off the market that prove to be harmful, like those containing ephedra, but that depends on consumers and manufacturers reporting adverse side effects, which doesn't always happen.

If you choose to take a supplement, be smart:
  • Check with your doctor and make sure a supplement doesn't interfere with any medications you're prescribed. St. John's wort, for example, reduces the effectiveness of antidepressants [source: Office of Dietary Supplements]. Some supplements are bad for certain conditions, as well. People with kidney problems, for example, shouldn't take creatine [source: Kids Health].
  • Do your homework on safety. If you take too much vitamin C, for example, your body discards the extra in your urine, but if you take too much vitamin A, it's toxic.
  • Listen to your body. If you're experiencing side effects, stop taking the supplement.
The most common supplements for lifters are probably multivitamins, creatine, essential fatty acids like fish oil, and protein powders. There is at least some biological evidence for all of these that supports their use -- as long as you're not experiencing adverse side effects.
And remember what your grandmother always said -- if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

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OLYMPICS/ Government-funded training boosts Olympians’ medal hopes

Japanese national team members Seiya Kishikawa, right, and Koki Niwa practice on a government-funded table tennis machine, front left. (The Asahi Shimbun)
Japanese national team members Seiya Kishikawa, right, and Koki Niwa practice on a government-funded table tennis machine, front left. (The Asahi Shimbun) 

In international table tennis, the Chinese players' secret weapon is their formidable Chiquita spin, a sideways curve that has helped them dominate international competition.

The Japanese national team has even invited Chinese players to Japan to play or organized training camps with China in hopes of getting some practice time against the Chiquita spin.

But Yoshihito Miyazaki, head of the national men’s table tennis team, says, “The Chinese athletes never do the Chiquita (outside of competition).”

So, for the upcoming Olympics, Japan's national table tennis team members have been training on state-funded machines that were developed to replicate the tricky Chiquita spin.

The three machines cost a total of about 10 million yen ($127,000) to develop. But insiders believe it was worth every yen for Japanese players who are potential Olympic medalists.

“We can practice on balls similar to what the top Chinese players will give us,” says 2011 national women’s champion Kasumi Ishikawa.

Five years after the National Training Center was built in Tokyo’s Kita Ward to provide state-funded training for future Olympians, the results of the state-of-the-art training facilities are about to be tested in London.

The seriousness of the commitment is demonstrated in table tennis, which China has ruled in the world championships and the Olympics.

To break the dominance, the Japanese team asked experts in various fields including hydromechanics to work together for 12 months to develop machines that will serve Chiquita spin balls.

The machines were developed with full funding provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s (MEXT) Multi-Support Project, which directly provides funding to sports that can be expected to medal at the Olympic Games. The Multi-Support Project began in fiscal 2008, which means the London Olympics will be the first real test of the project’s efforts.

This fiscal year, the government allocated a 3.2 billion yen budget on projects aimed at boosting the competitiveness of national sports teams including the Multi-Support Project.

For the first time, this budget surpassed the 2.6 billion yen in government subsidies allocated to the Japanese Olympic Committee and distributed to various sports organizations. The increase in funding is the result of the sports fundamental law, which was established last year and explicitly states that the government is responsible for promoting sports and prompting the government to put even more effort into the project.

Olympic venues tested as well

The national sailing team, which aims to medal for the first time in two Olympic Games, used funding from the Multi-Support Project to test five boats at the actual Olympic venue in the winds unique to the area. The team compared data on the course, created by a computer, and a course selected by the athletes to improve their ability to make the right judgments. In addition, the team purchased four 470-type boats for a total of 9.84 million yen and conducted a computer-based analysis of the boats’ different performance levels depending on the manufacturer.

Many small-scale sport organizations such as the sailing organization have been struggling financially amid the prolonged recession. Without the government-backed Multi-Support Project, this kind of research and development would have been nearly impossible.

Unexpected ripple effects

The state-funded project has had unexpected effects on other sports as well. The women’s national judo team incorporated its own scientific training. Judoka wearing electrodes on their chests and watches on their wrists repeated 20-meter dashes while getting their maximum heart rate measured.

The goal is to help athletes produce the best performance while out of breath. This training was developed, stimulated by other sports teams’ use of the Multi-Support Project.

In a test called speed training, athletes raise their heart rates as much as possible with electrodes and watches on their bodies. Akitoshi Sogabe, head of the national judo team’s general affairs department, says with great expectations, “This is the first such attempt in judo. It helps to create bodies that will maintain a strong core even when athletes are tired.”

The results of these efforts will be seen in numerous sports once the London Olympics opens on July 27.
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OLYMPICS/ Sports share training regimens, data to win medals

When Japan's national judo and wrestling teams were training together at a joint camp, the wrestlers were quickly and easily tackling the judoka from behind and taking them to the mat.

When Shinichi Shinohara, head coach of the national men’s judo team, suggested that all athletes wear a judo-gi, or judo uniform, wrestlers were easily thrown.

“Wrestling involves a lot of pushing moves, but judoka pull opponents to throw them. I learned a lot from this experience,” says Saori Yoshida, gold medalist in the women's freestyle wrestling 55-kg division at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Athletes and coaches of different sports have been converging at two publicly funded facilities to learn from each others’ training methods.

Members of Japan’s national judo and wrestling teams, which aim to win medals en masse as they have in the past, held a joint training camp at the Ajinomoto National Training Center (NTC) and the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences (JISS)--both located in Tokyo’s Kita Ward--between late last year and early this year.
The two sports are similar in that they involve fierce grappling, both standing and on the mat. But the training regimens and basic movements differ greatly. By training together, team officials hoped that judoka and wrestlers would motivate and learn from each other.

In another cross-sport sharing experiment, Masaaki Sugita, a Mie University professor of sports science who accompanied the national men’s soccer team to the 2010 World Cup Games and contributed to the Samurai Blue’s advancement to the top 16, is now working with the women’s marathon team that is aiming to regain Japan’s past Olympic glory in the event at the London Olympics.

When working with the national soccer team, Sugita used urine tests conducted in the 1990s on the track-and-field team and succeeded in managing the soccer players’ conditions. For the upcoming Olympics, he will be using that experience to give feedback to the long-distance track-and-field team. He has been conducting 11 types of urine and other tests and inputting the results on his smartphone and other gadgets to collect and analyze data daily since last year.

Efforts transcending various sports and experts began on a full scale in 2008, when the NTC was built. What served as a role model was “Team Kitajima”--the team of coaches and other experts who analyzed swimming and training methods to support Kosuke Kitajima, the Beijing and Athens Olympic swimming gold medalist. Kitajima’s four gold medals attest to the success of these cross-sectional joint training and analysis.
Norimasa Hirai, head coach of the national swimming team, who used to coach Kitajima, says, “We can’t aim for gold medals without the (facilities and experts at) JISS or NTC.”

Hirai himself is learning from his interactions with athletes in other sports such as Yuki Ohta, a fencer who won the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics' individual foil event. Hirai says that watching the training sessions of other sports has benefited him.

“Surprisingly, I had very few opportunities to meet athletes from different sports. Here (at the NTC), I see other athletes all the time just being here so I feel the unity among members of Team Japan.”

Basketball player Yuko Ohga also appreciates the sense of oneness. For 10 weeks after undergoing surgery on her right instep, she was doing her rehab sessions at the JISS.

“Rehab is really hard and lonely. But when I saw athletes in other sports training to their physical limits, I couldn’t complain,” she says.

Ohga recovered enough to play in the final Olympic qualifiers that were held starting in late June, although Japan ultimately failed to win a ticket to the Olympics.
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OLYMPICS/ South Korea, Japan vie for best of rest in Asia

LONDON--While China tussles for top spot in the Olympic medal standings with the United States, the race to be best of the rest in Asia will come down to another battle between bitter rivals South Korea and Japan at the London Games.

Sleeping giants India have ploughed money into sport in recent years and have high hopes of more individual success following shooter Abhinav Bindra's gold medal in Beijing, but they are unlikely to break into the top 10 anytime soon.

Any kind of victory over former colonial masters Japan is enough to put a broad smile on even the most stony-faced Korean, and finishing higher on the Olympics medal table in London would carry extra significance.

The 1948 London Games were the first Olympics that Korea competed as a separate nation and not under the Japanese flag.

"The Olympic Games will serve as an occasion for national harmony and festivities, bringing 50 million South Koreans together as one," said Park Yong-sung, president of the Korean Olympic Committee.

"And this year's London Olympics is even more significant, because it was also in London in 1948 that we first competed as 'Korea.'"

South Korea won 13 gold medals in Beijing to finish seventh on the table, one place above Japan. They have targeted a modest 10 golds and a top 10 finish in London but it is no secret they would be over the moon with a repeat of 2008.

As in Beijing, the Koreans' sporting strength lies in archery and taekwondo and they could easily take seven gold medals from those events alone.

Also in with a chance of winning gold is swimmer Park Tae-hwan, who won the 400m freestyle in Beijing, while Koreans could also strike gold in fencing, gymnastics, judo and wrestling.


After the misery of last year's deadly tsunami and nuclear crisis, Japan could be forgiven for regarding sport as insignificance, but the Japanese contingent hope a good performance in London will lift the entire country.

Track cyclist Kazunari Watanabe is a long shot to medal but wants his participation in London to inspire.
Watanabe's hometown of Futuba was left a no-man's land in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis at the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant.

"I want to be power for the people in Futaba and Fukushima at this Olympics and will aim for the gold medal. I want to help them and bring them some light as an athlete."

After a tremendous fifth place in Athens where they won 16 golds, Japan returned from Beijing disappointed with nine as several of their leading hopes failed to perform.

However, they have set a target of 15 golds for London, with the martial art of judo tipped to produce eight despite the lack of experience in the team.

Kohei Uchimura is expected to turn Beijing silver into London gold in the men's all round gymnastics, while Japan's World Cup winning women will target a dream double in the soccer competition.

Swimmer Kosuke Kitajima, who has achieved the double-double by winning the 100 and 200 breaststroke at the 2004 and 2008 Games, has bounced back from a terrible 2011 and has topped the rankings in the events this year and could be the first man to win the same swimming event at three successive Games.
Pint-sized wrestler Saori Yoshida could be the most fearsome athlete in any sport at the Games and having never tasted defeat at an Olympics she is short odds to win her third consecutive gold in the women's 55kg division.

"I won't lose," she told reporters in the run-up to London. "Not if I fight the way I know I can, and have trained for."

Among the smaller sporting nations, Mongolia will look to their traditional combat sports and hunting skills to deliver medals in wrestling, judo and shooting while North Korean weightlifters and boxers usually bring home a gold medal.
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SECRET TO OLYMPIC STRENGTH: Screaming helps boost performance

What do Olympian hammer thrower Koji Murofushi, tennis player Maria Sharapova and table tennis player Ai Fukuhara have in common?

They’re all going to compete at the London Olympics, which kicks off on July 27, and they all regularly scream or shriek during competition. Why do top athletes scream when they perform, and do their yells and shrieks boost their performances? Some researchers say they do.

Last fall, Sharapova’s loud shrieks gained negative attention after an opponent complained that the noise drowned out the sound of the ball being hit and made it difficult for her to judge its speed.
It’s unclear whether shrieking can effectively rattle opponents. But the positive effects it has on the person who is screaming are well known.

Some of you may have first-hand experience. Have you ever been unable to lift a barbell only to be able to heft it when you screamed? Or when you thought you couldn’t possibly run anymore during the last minutes of a soccer game, have your tired legs ever suddenly gained strength when you screamed?


“This is commonly known as the adrenaline rush,” explains Michiya Tanimoto, lecturer of kinesiology at Kinki University. Tanimoto says that screaming can raise athletes' excitement level and enable them to perform at a higher level.

Even when we try to exert our maximum strength, our bodies subconsciously hold back. When we raise our voices, the excitement level elevates, overriding the subconscious restraint over our muscles and enabling people to exert more strength closer to their physical limitations. This is similar to a feature in engines in which the so-called “limiter” puts a restriction on the maximum speed. Releasing this “limiter” will allow engines to exert the maximum speed it is capable of.

One study shows that the more people are tired, the more prominent this becomes. The late University of Tokyo professor Michio Ikai and other researchers released research findings in the 1960s that showed that when the arm is flexed and extended continuously, the arm muscle gradually exerts less strength. But yelling will temporarily boost the strength in the arm. Studies showed that yelling helps exert more power than the initial thrust.

Tanimoto studied the relationship between raising one’s voice and maximum muscular strength during a hand grip test of 10 male students. During a test involving just one hand grip, test subjects exerted 5 percent more strength when they yelled as they squeezed the measuring device compared to when they didn’t. After the 50th consecutive squeeze, maximum power increased by 11 percent when test subjects yelled.

Another research suggests that yelling can trigger a faster response to stimuli. Mie University emeritus professor Hirohisa Wakita (kinesiology) tested 25 male students and asked them to jump when they saw lamp signals flickering every two to five seconds. When students yelled after lamp signals flickered, they were able to respond 0.02 seconds faster on average.

But when they were asked to jump in the opposite direction of one of the two lamp signals that flickered, students made slightly more mistakes when they yelled.

“The yelling increases the excitement level in the body, which may weaken a person’s judgment when they need to make complex moves,” explains Wakita.

2004 Athens Olympics hammer throwing gold medalist Murofushi and other hammer throwers often scream after they release the round metal ball.

“That’s the result of their bodies getting a buzz,” says
 Tanimoto. Wakita points out that by raising their voices, athletes “can make movements that stabilize their bodies.”

According to Wakita, when people flex their arms, their biceps typically contract while their triceps stretch and move smoothly. But when a person screams, both muscles contract.

“It creates a state similar to when you step on both the accelerator and the brakes at the same time,” says Wakita. He believes that by screaming right after throwing the ball, the hammer thrower can make his body tighten up and prevent himself from jumping outside the designated circle.


Why does Fukuhara scream "Saa!" right after she scores a point? Wakita focuses on the sustainability of the excitement effect caused by screaming. Shogo Yokoyama, a graduate of Wakita’s research group, conducted a test in which he asked participants to flex and stretch their arms 20 times. When the participants yelled once every five times, they tended to exert much more power even at times when they didn’t yell compared with when they didn’t yell at all throughout the test.

“Fukuhara boosts her concentration by screaming, and goes into her next rally in a continued state of excitement,” says Wakita.
Why does screaming boost concentration and strength? Yu Aramaki, associate professor at Chukyo University’s School of Health and Sport Sciences, took an MRI of the brains of two test subjects when they were yelling. He found that when they screamed, activity increased in the brainstem locus coeruleus.
The locus coeruleus is a clump of nerve cells that release noradrenaline, which serve as neurotransmitters among other roles. When a person yells, the locus coeruleus becomes active, releases noradrenaline, and raises the heart rate and blood pressure to promote alertness and concentration. Past research on the effects of yelling has proven these facts.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to the body experiencing excitement. The premotor cortex, which is important when making complex movements such as asymmetrical movements, does not function well when the body is excited. And releasing too much noradrenaline can trigger fear and uncertainty.
For optimal athletic performance, researchers say that people need appropriate amounts of stimuli and a state of awakening.

“It’s important for people to know what creates the optimal state in one’s body,” advises Aramaki, because screaming also consumes precious energy. Therefore, Tanimoto suggests, “Limit (screaming) to the most important moment of your athletic career.”
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OLYMPICS/ London 2012 Clinic Offers Athletes Top Health Care

LONDON--Athletes at the London Olympics will be offered free health care ranging from state of the art eye care and dentistry to sports physiotherapy, osteopathy and surgery at a 23 million pounds ($36.04 million) "polyclinic."

The 24-hour center in the Olympic Park, where 200 competitors a day are expected to be treated during the Games, will make athletes the top priorities but will also look after support staff and coaches.
The common complaints are expected to be musculoskeletal injuries such as strains and sprains, minor illness like colds and small wounds and grazes.

"Even the most minor ailment can have serious implications upon an elite athlete's performance," Olympic organizing committee LOCOG's director of sport Debbie Jevans told reporters as they were given a preview of the clinic on June 18.

She said the center was equipped to respond quickly and get athletes the treatment they needed as soon as possible.

Organizers stress the medical care offered will be "immediate and necessary" and say athletes and support staff will not be treated for pre-existing or chronic conditions.

Experience from previous Games suggests the dental and eye care clinics are likely to be among the busiest, ranking second only to physiotherapy.

"There will be competitors who haven't had much access to dental care," said Wendy Turner, one of the six dental specialists who will work at the clinic. "This is an opportunity for them to get it sorted out."
The main health-care services--which will include state of the art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography(CT) scans, as well as digital X-rays, will be delivered by a team of 10 paid LOCOG staff, 500 volunteer doctors, nurses and other health workers and 80 on-call specialists.


"We have always put the needs of the athletes at the heart of the Games," said LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe.

"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."

The Olympic village's doping control station is also to be housed in the polyclinic but will be accessible via a separate entrance, organizers said.

The center was built with 17 million pounds from Britain's taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS) and another six million pounds from the London 2012 organizing committee's 9.3 billion pounds budget.
After the Games, the plan is for the clinic to be converted back into an NHS health clinic with primary care doctors, pharmacy services and a dental surgery.
($1 = 0.6382 British pounds)
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What Supplements do Olympic Weightlifters Use?

Weightlifting has been an Olympic sport since the first modern-day games in Athens in 1896, and ever since, it's been a battle to see who is the strongest, the fittest and, ultimately, a winning Olympian.
A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Massachusetts suggests that human growth hormone (hGH) is a commonly used substance among American male weightlifters of all levels. Researchers found that as many as 12 percent of weightlifters surveyed admitted they use the anabolic steroid, with the median usage lasting for a 23-week period. And it's not only at the amateur level -- U.S. Olympic weightlifter Patrick Mendes was recently suspended for two years for using hGH. He is not alone.

But there's a difference between enhancing your performance with substances that may harm you or give you unfair advantage in your sport and taking supplements to make sure you're getting all the protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals you need in your daily diet. The World Anti-Doping Agency maintains a strict list of substances Olympians are prohibited from using, both in and out of competition -- the list currently includes anabolic agents, peptide hormones, beta-2 agonists, hormone antagonists and modulators, diuretics and other masking agents, stimulants (caffeine was prohibited until 2004), narcotics, cannabinoids, and glucocorticosteroids. Athletes are also prohibited from gene doping, enhancement of oxygen transfer (also known as blood doping), and chemical and physical manipulation. When Pat Mendes tested positive for hGH, for example, he was in violation of the International Weightlifting Federation Anti-Doping Policies and the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing -- and was subsequently banned from participating in the 2012 London games.

But none of those are actually dietary supplements. An athlete's dietary requirements can far exceed what most of the rest of us need because they use more energy, but your intake needs are also based on your overall health, how your metabolism works and, in general, how your individual body works. Olympic athletes have the best odds of achieving their best performances when their nutritional needs are met and maintained.

Just like us non-Olympians, the types of supplements Olympic weightlifters use are going to be determined by their own bodies' needs. Olympic nutritionists emphasize the importance of a well-balanced diet full of energy-boosting and tissue-rebuilding foods, such as carbohydrates, protein, fats and fluids, but Olympic athletes may supplement their diets with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron and zinc, as well as amino acids, among other compounds. Let's look at some of the most commonly used supplements, beginning with what amino acids are and why they're important for weightlifters.

Breaking Down the Benefits

Elite athletes use much more energy that the rest of us, but nutritionists and sports medicine professionals rarely recommend dietary supplements over a balanced diet unless an athlete has a deficiency. Still, many athletes and Olympians may choose to supplement their diet to help the body perform, recover and repair itself at peak performance.
Amino acids are what the body uses to build protein, and they also play a role in your body's metabolism and its ability to repair body tissues. There are three amino acids that the body can't produce itself, which have to come from food and supplements: These are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). One of the three, leucine, is believed to be responsible for synthesizing protein in the body -- essential for building muscle tissue -- hence why some elite athletes choose to take BCAA supplements.
Additionally, the amino acid L-Glutamine is popular among weightlifters and body builders, because it prevents muscle loss, promotes muscle growth and helps boost the muscle energy supply.
Your body also uses amino acids to produce a chemical called creatine, which it stores in its muscles. Creatine entered the public consciousness when athletes in the former USSR began to use it as a performance enhancer -- since 1992, it's been a go-to supplement for many athletes, because it may help improve overall performance as well as build strength and lean muscle mass during brief, intense training -- including weightlifting. Findings from a study that followed weightlifting performance while participants were using creatine supplements showed that weightlifters taking it had an average of 8 percent greater muscle strength and a 14 percent increase in lifting performance over those using a placebo [source: Rawson].
In addition to amino acid supplementation, weightlifters may find they benefit from glucosamine supplements. Glucosamine is an amino-monosaccharide, a compound of protein and carbohydrate that naturally occurs in your body and may help the body recover from injury by repairing and strengthening cartilage and reducing joint pain as well as joint swelling and stiffness.
There are also three essential minerals that keep Olympian bodies (and those of mere mortals) in tip-top shape.

Calcium, Iron and Zinc

Vitamins and minerals also help the body manage your energy levels, how well your immune system works and how efficiently your muscles contract. Olympic-level athletes, such as elite weightlifters, use more energy and place their bodies under more stress when they train than many of the rest of us, and there are three essential minerals that can help them manage that: calcium, iron and zinc. Let's look at calcium's benefits first.
Your body needs calcium to grow strong bones and to maintain that strength and health. It also plays an important role in heart health and blood clotting, as well as how well your nerves communicate. Calcium boosts bone density (which reduces the risk of bone fractures).
Iron is an essential mineral and one of the most common nutritional deficiencies among athletes. Iron (and the B-vitamins B12 and folate) is essential for making healthy red blood cells. It also plays an important role in how your body gets oxygen from your lungs to all its cells and in energy production.
Of those three essential minerals mentioned above, that leaves us with zinc. Zinc deficiency may lead to a weakened immune system, but what's special about zinc and elite athletes is that if their bodies don't have enough of the mineral, they can't maintain adequate levels of testosterone in the blood. Without the right level of testosterone, the body can't maintain adequate muscle mass and muscle strength.
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Lessons from the Olympics

The majority of us may only dream about becoming medal winners, but London 2012's Olympians can teach us a lot about how to successfully improve our fitness.
Anita Naik looks at the best tips on how to focus on your fitness goals, motivate yourself and roll with the setbacks.

Gold - Hearst Magazines UK Go for gold

Always aim for the top.

Jessica Ennis, world heptathlon silver medalist in 2011 says that as an athlete you have to foster a winning mentality.

Her silver medal at the World Championship gave her a taste of second place and she didn't like it: 'As an athlete I always want a bit more. It's this that makes me really want to go for the gold.'
Personal Trainer Steven Lewis agrees that you should always aim for the top. 'To strive higher and win, you need to define what success means to you.

'Before you train, ask yourself what you want to get out of each session, perhaps lift more, run further or faster – and then think about your long term goal.

'This will help you to focus on what you're trying to achieve and how you're going to make it happen.'

Diving - GettyFind the right sport for you

Find activities you love and keep doing them.

Diver Tom Daley is only 17, but he's already a double gold medalist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

His advice is to find activities you love and keep doing them. He started swimming at the age of three and at school played football and rugby, but he didn't really enjoy them. It was only when he tried out at a diving session that he found his 'niche'.

If you want to get fit but find you're slacking, remind yourself that not everyone is made for the gym.
If a traditional fitness setting or sport isn't your thing, think beyond what you know. Consider trying:
  • martial arts for core conditioning and strength
  • Park Run – a not-for-profit organisation that organises free weekly 5km runs around the country for anyone who wants to get fit
  • danced-based workout Zumba, is one of the world's fastest growing fitness programmes.

Believe you can come back from setbacks

Dame Kelly Holmes went through a tough time after a series of injuries in 2003, and struggled with depression.

'You get to the situation where you almost don't want to commit fully to training because you won't be able to bear the frustration if you break down again,' said the double gold Olympic winner (at both 800m and 1500m).

She believes that having faith in yourself is key, otherwise no amount of training will help you bounce back.
'The mistake most people make when they get an injury or face a set-back is to try and play or train through it,' says sports therapist Jane Haven.

'With both instances, it's essential to adapt your training and/or take rest accordingly so you can come back stronger and better focused on your goals.'

Don't worry about nerves

Nerves - Getty
Stop and focus on your breathing to pull you back into the present.

Zara Phillips, who won a team gold at the 2007 European Eventing Championships, knows a thing or two about nerves.

The award-winning equestrian has talked about her nerves before an event, but argues that the excitement and adrenaline actually help her focus and produce her best performance.

If you suffer from nerves, just remember that pre-game/event jitters are normal.
'The adrenaline rush you feel is not fear, it's part of your body's natural preparation for the competition,' says life coach Amy Duffy.

'You can help reduce performance anxiety by focusing on what you're doing rather than the outcome. Stay in the moment and if you find nerves rattling you, stop and focus on your breathing to pull you back into the present.'

Get enough rest

British sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, who was a bronze medal winner at the 2009 World Championships in athletics, trains for four hours every day.
But he says that getting a good amount of rest is vital because the growth hormones released during sleep help your muscle and tissue grow and repair.
He aims for at least eight hours of sleep a night, and ideally ten when he can.
Rest and recovery have a big impact on your fitness gains and sports performance. This means you should concentrate on the following.
  • Cooling down after exercise. Move at a very low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes after a workout to remove lactic acid from your muscles.
  • Replace fluids right away because this boosts recovery.
  • Give yourself at least one full day off a week from any kind of exercise. This will help you relax both mentally and physically.

Train with like-minded people

Friends - Hearst Magazines UK
Friends or fitness buddies who share your objectives can definitely help you both stay on track and push yourself harder. 

Having people around who are doing the same activities can help you keep going.
'Being in a motivated group is important because athletes feed off each other's attributes,' says Andy Turner, European and Commonwealth champion at 110m hurdles.

'Having an approach like this to training will improve your fitness at any level.'

Steven Lewis agrees, 'Friends or fitness buddies who share your objectives can definitely help you both stay on track and push yourself harder,' he says.
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