Guarding the Olympic torch for 70 days on its journey through the British Isles sounds like a plum assignment, but experts warn it will carry serious stress and Scotland Yard plans to offer psychological counseling when the 8,000-mile trip is completed.

There are concerns that the 28 carefully selected officers, and the eight held in reserve in case of illness or injury, may have trouble adjusting to routine police duty after the excitement and pressure of the Olympic job.

Scotland Yard said in a statement Friday that the officers will have access to psychologists, physical therapists and doctors, a decision applauded by occupational therapy experts.

“We usually associate stress with something negative, something terrible that has happened, but positive life events can be stressful as well,” said Genevieve Smyth, a specialist with the College of Occupational Therapists. “They might really enjoy this task, and it might be a career boost, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful.”

She said the protection officers will have to deal with being potential targets and will also have to manage confrontations with protesters while they are under constant media scrutiny, all factors that may make counseling necessary.

“We don’t know if everyone will need it or take up the offer, but I would hope any organization would have an interest in checking the well-being of their staff after this stressful situation,” she said.

The officers are charged with protecting the torch from fanatics and extremists during its journey throughout much of the United Kingdom. The route will take them through major cities and to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and dozens of other cities, towns and islands.

Source: Gregory Katz The Associated Press.

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