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Welcome to London? Don't shake on it

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain adopted a more hands-on approach to the London Olympics on Tuesday after playing down fears that athletes could damage their chances by picking up germs from visiting rivals and officials.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) defended itself against headlines suggesting it risked causing offence with advice that British athletes should not shake hands for reasons of hygiene.

"It's just basic, common sense. We are simply reminding athletes to take common-sense measures, such as washing their hands and using hand foam, to reduce the risk of catching a bug," said a BOA spokeswoman.

"It's the same type of advice many employers give to their employees.

"As an official policy, we are not advising our athletes to avoid shaking hands with people."

The BOA's chief medical officer Ian McCurdie had told reporters at a recent briefing that minimizing illness and avoiding bugs was of paramount importance in the run-up to the Games that start on July 27.

Asked whether that meant avoiding handshakes, he replied: "I think, within reason, yes. I think that's not such a bad thing to advise.

"The difficulty is when you have got some reception and you have got a line of 20 people that you have never met before and you've got to shake hands with," he added.

He also suggested that "maybe adopting the Japanese way and just bowing rather than shaking hands" might be a solution.

McCurdie said the risk at a home Games was greater than others because British athletes would come into contact with far more people than if they were staying in the confines of an Olympic village overseas.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin)

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