We start with news that USA Swimming has moved a pre-Olympic training camp away from Puerto Rico because of concerns over the Zika virus – a virus whose epicenter just happens to be Brazil – the host country for the Olympics.
I think you know what I’m getting at here.
We’re now 2 ½ months from the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio – a period that’ll be filled with strong debates, regarding the fears and risks of holding the games in an area where thousands of Zika cases are suspected. Hope Solo made news in February when she said she’d consider not competing, before announcing she would compete, but wouldn’t leave her hotel room during free time.
Said Solo: “I strongly believe that no athlete should be put into this position – to decide between your Olympic dreams and your own health.”
I promise you that Solo isn’t the only Olympic athlete and family member who feels this way – and I wholeheartedly agree.
We’re talking about world-class athletes – men and women – many of whom have plans to start a family, after living out their lifelong dreams of competing in the World Games. They shouldn’t be faced with the threat of contagion and risks to their families at what should be a celebration of their athletic achievements. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be echoed by many Olympians around the world leading up to and during the games.
And yes, the Rio Organizing Committee is trying to quell fears by spraying insecticide around facilities, and clearing areas of mosquitoes as best they can.
Again, I’m not a doctor – and you can call the media citing the handful of doctors raising the red flags sensationalistic. But in a time when we’re concerned about the spread of Zika, I agree with experts who say it’s probably not the best time for close to a half million visitors to be infiltrating Brazil – and then returning to their native countries.
One thing is clear: The Olympic games won’t be cancelled, postponed or moved. Neither the IOC nor Brazil is budging. After all, the country is in its biggest recession in over 100 years and spent close to $10 billion to host the games – a budget that’s 16 times higher than their budget to fight Zika!
So while the World Health Organization recently released a statement to Olympic athletes and visitors on how to mitigate the Zika risk, we know the best way is to not go at all.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option for Olympic athletes this summer – unless they want to forfeit what they’ve been working their entire lives.