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British Olympic Doctor Says Clean Hands Lead to Medals in London

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- A gold medal performance at this year’s London Olympics may come down to athletes washing their hands properly, the British team’s top doctor said.

“The greatest threat to performance is illness and injury,” Ian McCurdie, chief medical officer of Team GB, said in an interview with a small group of reporters in London. “The Olympic environment is a hostile one. Housing can be dense, you share rooms and restaurants with many other athletes and there is a lot of extra stress. Most bugs you pick up on your hands, so hand washing is absolutely critical.”

As host nation, Britain is aiming to maintain its fourth place on the overall medal table from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 550-strong British Olympic team -- the biggest in more than a century -- will given hand foam made by Procter & Gamble’s Vicks brand during their stay in the Olympic Village, which will house around 10,000 athletes.

Contact with other people, such as friends and family visiting the Games, or shaking hands with officials, should also be kept to “a minimum” said McCurdie, for whom London will be his fifth Games. And always wash your hands afterwards, he added.

Although there is no scientific evidence hand washing stops people from getting ill, the Norwegian team “significantly” reduced its sick rate during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games compared to Turin in 2006 when it told its athletes to wash their hands, McCurdie said. In Vancouver, Norway finished fourth in the overall medals table, compared to a 13th place in Turin.

“Illness spreads quite quickly in the Olympic village, so it’s a pretty easy thing to do and it saves the chances of getting ill at the wrong time,” Laurence Halsted, a member of the British fencing squad, said in an interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh on the London sports desk at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at

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