The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: literature review of the logistical planning and operational challenges for public health

Public Health. 2008 Nov;122(11):1229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2008.04.016. Epub 2008 Jul 11.


Objective: To undertake a review of the literature relating to public health planning and interventions at previous summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and other relevant major summer sporting events or mass gatherings, with a focus on official publications and peer-reviewed articles.

Study design: Literature review.

Methods: A literature review was undertaken using all biomedical databases and a freetext search using Google to widen the search beyond peer-reviewed publications. Search terms used were: Olympics; Paralympics; mass gatherings; mass gathering medicine; sporting events; weather; planning; and organisation. Citations within articles were searched to identify additional references that would inform this review. This literature review concentrates on the public health aspects of population care at mass gatherings, particularly the Olympic and Paralympic Games which are set over several weeks, focusing on surveillance, prevention and health service quality.

Results: The literature identified 10 areas of public health planning: public health command centre and communication; surveillance, assessment and control; environmental health and safety; infectious disease outbreaks; implications of weather conditions; health promotion; travel information; economic assessments; public transport and reduction of asthma events; and preparing athletes for potential allergies. The following themes emerged as crucial factors for the success of any public health interventions at Olympic and Paralympic Games: detailed planning of deliverables; pre-identification of critical success factors; management of risk; detailed contingency planning; and full testing of all plans prior to the event.

Conclusions: The 2012 Olympic Games will provide an exciting challenge for public health providers and systems. Preparation requires early detailed planning of policies, procedures and on-site health promotion events, in addition to helping to set up the surveillance and monitoring systems that will capture public health activity alongside medical activity. Learning from the literature review will support the identification of critical success factors and help to formulate recommendations that will allow optimal utilization of public health initiatives. All plans require full costings in advance which are supported by internal and external health-related agencies, voluntary organizations and sponsors. A risk assessment should be undertaken as part of the planning process leading to risk management plans for mitigating identified potential risks. All surveillance and monitoring systems, communication, policies and procedures will require full testing prior to commencement of the Games.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anniversaries and Special Events*
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Environmental Health / organization & administration
  • Heat Stress Disorders / prevention & control
  • Heat Stress Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Logistic Models
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Public Health Administration / methods*
  • Sports*
  • Transportation
  • Travel