Less than 100 days before the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janiero, Brazil is still facing many problems and safety concerns from fans and athletes over the Zika virus and the nation’s environmental and political states. As a result, only half of the Olympics tickets have been sold and the host country is scrambling to fill up the stands. Also, several athletes may skip the games due to health concerns.
Sierra Canyon School International Student Coordinator Sergio Ribeiro, who is a native of Brazil and has family there, stated that they are all very concerned about the current state of the nation.
“I think it is of great concern right now. The Brazilian government is doing its best to take care of it, but I think people should still be cautious if they are traveling down to Brazil this summer,” Ribeiro said.
The Zika virus is transmitted through mosquito bites and is linked to Microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller and their brain may not develop properly, according to UCLA Health Magazine. Pregnant women face the greatest risk of getting the virus and are encouraged to not travel to regions where it is prominent. In a statement by the CDC and NIH, there are around 32 of 346 diagnosed cases of the virus in the U.S. were of pregnant women. After doing some research on the virus, Science Department Chair Joan Rohrback stated that officials are now thinking that it’s not the Zika virus causing the birth defects but it is the water treatment used to kill the mosquitoes causing it, but more research is needed.
“80% of people who contract Zika have no symptoms and it is a very mild virus. Almost nobody dies from it. It’s not like dengue or malaria or yellow fever, which are all carried by the same mosquito (AEDES),” Rohrback said.
Brazil’s environment and political status have also drawn many safety concerns regarding whether or not Rio is capable to host the Olympics. The surrounding bodies of water around Rio are contaminated with sewage and human feces, drawing concerns that athletes could get sick and be unable to compete due to the unhealthy conditions. Furthermore, Brazil is in the middle of a political and economic crisis which has resulted in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies voting to impeach the nation’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, who has been accused of being involved in the Petrobras oil company corruption scandal as she was a former chairperson of the company. The Senate will then chose whether or not to accept this case.
The scandal has led to many protests and Brazil to enter its worst economic recession since the 1990s. Although the IOC stated the scandals won’t affect Olympics preparation, there are still many safety concerns.
“We are worried because the future of the country is still uncertain. We hope that the best will come out of it and that it will not affect the citizens and our families,” Ribeiro said.