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What effects will the Zika virus have on Rio 2016?

JP O'Brien

Recently there has been much controversy over the Rio 2016 Olympics. Not only is there the looming threat of Zika; Brazil has had issues with competition venues like the Velodrome and the Guanabara Bay.  With dangers such as these, a few athletes have decided not to compete in the games, but what athlete wants to miss out on what is supposed to be one of the greatest competitions the world has to offer?

Well apparently quite a few.

Many highly ranked golfers including Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day (the World #1 Ranked Golfer) have all opted out of these Olympics. Other athletes have voiced their concerns as well.  NBA player Pau Gasol said he may skip the 2016 Olympics and encouraged others to consider the issue seriously.  Soccer star Hope Solo says she will not leave her hotel room except if she has to practice or compete.  The South Korean team has prepared “Zika-proof” uniforms that have been treated with mosquito repellent.  The Zika scare is rampant and I am sure these athletes were conflicted with these decisions and made the choice that was right for them.

Brazil has been hit hardest by the Zika virus.  It is a serious issue that half a million Olympic spectators, athletes, and support staff are coming to the center of the outbreak.  Even though many doctors and professors have argued for the games to be postponed or moved, Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “there is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics.

What I find amazing and inspiring is the amount of people that, even with the danger and controversy clouding the games, continue to fight and compete to be a part of it.  Besides the Zika scare, another controversy surrounding these Olympics is the Russian Track and Field squad’s doping allegations.  Russia has had a history of doping, and currently WADA (the World Anti Doping Agency) along with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has barred all Russian athletes from competing.  However, there are a few athletes from Russia who will undergo more extensive testing in order to compete in the games.  In light of the Russian controversy, a New Zealand rowing squad that placed behind the Russians in qualifying has been training for competition in case the Russians can’t compete.  NZ Rowing Chief Executive Simon Peterson said he couldn’t live with himself if his team failed to prepare and missed the opportunity to fill in for the Russians. Ryan Lochte missed his spot to compete in the 400-meter individual medley (an event that he won in London 2012) because of a groin injury.  Despite this injury, Lochte will compete for qualifying spots in the 200-meter freestyle, 100 free, 200 backstroke and 100 fly.  We here at isplack believe there is nothing better than seeing athletes doing everything they can to compete at the highest level.

Bottom line - athletes are truly fearless; they will do whatever it takes to be the best even if there are dangerous risks.  There is something special about representing your country in a tradition that is old as time itself.  Besides the obvious risk of injury that competitors find in sports, they must also be safe in a foreign land.  The danger is real, however living dangerously is second nature to athletes.  They are courageous even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of Zika.  

Get Your Colors On!

Cooper Nelson - isplack intern