by Brittany Bell
Photos Courtesy of VRSource and The Huffington Post
The Olympic Games are supposed to bring the world together to cheer on the elite athletes of their home countries. Nations across the world honor this ancient tradition, which creates unity and connection, while also harboring competition. However, this summer’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro have been plagued by controversy and turmoil as of recent. Bad luck, disease and unrest are all affecting Rio, as well as the entire nation of Brazil, and have left some unanswered questions and uneasy feelings surrounding the Olympics.
First and foremost, the threat of the Zika virus is haunting all of the young athletes planning to attend this year’s festivities.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Zika usually shows only “mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.” However, the issue for these athletes is not concerns for themselves, but rather for others (mostly potential children) as Zika “during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.”
Brazil is currently a hot-bed for the disease, and young athletes such as basketballer Steph Curry, golfer Jason Day and Irish golfer Rory McIlroy have all pulled out of the Olympics over concerns regarding the Zika virus.
Other athletes, such as Hope Solo and much of the US women’s soccer teams, have expressed their worries about attending the Olympics and will exercise caution while there. The South Korean athletes will be showing even more caution by wearing “Zika-proof suits” that are supposedly mosquito repellent.
Another issue plaguing the host nation is contaminated water. The high levels of bacteria and sewage in the water are posing a serious threat to athletes and spectators. Venues where many water sports are being held contain contaminated water, with some athletes who are already there falling ill.
The dangers surrounding the quality of water is also affecting water-sports teams, who have as well voiced concerns over their attendance. In addition to contaminated water, alligators have been breeding in waterways near certain Olympic sites, including the area where the golf competitions will take place.
Political unrest and rioting also create hazards for potential attendees of the Olympics. Brazil has suffered a crippling recession in recent months, especially with the looming vote to impeach Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff who was suspending from office earlier this year. Public servants aren’t going to be able to do much during the influx of tourists for the Olympics either; the local police are so short on funds, they not only have access to standard police vehicles, but are short on pens and toilet paper as well.
The financial issues and unstable government have led to large and unruly riots in the streets, which pose hazards to all travelers and Olympians alike. To try to create order within Brazil during the Olympic games, almost 85,000 troops will be patrolling the country, almost double that needed for the 2012 Olympics in London.
With all of the problems plaguing Brazil at the moment, one can’t help but wonder how it will affect the athletes, the fans, and the Olympic games as a whole. Although the IOC says that Brazil is duly prepared to host, the list of hazards taints their claim. When the Olympics do finally roll around on August 5th, it will be interesting to see if the games fall like the rest of Brazil, or rise to the occasion to meet ancient expectations of this time-tested tradition.