OPINION: Stay away from the Rio Olympics

BY: COLTON WALTER, ’19

With the rising hype in the past few months, it’s easy to look past the many problems surrounding the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  The games are set to kick off August 5, only 11 weeks away.  This impending deadline looms over the city while the rest of the world watches Brazil’s desperate attempts to scramble together for everyone to see.  But due to present conditions, Rio de Janeiro is simply too dangerous to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

One of the biggest issues that Rio has with holding the Olympic games is the city’s toxic environment.  Rounds of testing done by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Associated Press (AP) show an overabundance of harmful pathogens and raw sewage seething in the Olympic Waterways.  Experts even claimed that athletes would be “competing in the viral equivalent or raw sewage” according to The National Post.  Most of the city’s sewage isn’t treated, or even collected, as huge amounts flow right into Guanabara Bay.  The article also says the viruses from the sewage have created conditions 1.7 million times what would be considered ‘highly alarming’ in the US.  These conditions really don’t sound fit to be the stage for the world’s greatest athletes. 

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Debris and pollution in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro.  The bay and Olympic waterways have become increasingly toxic in the past year, according to AP and the WHO.  Photo courtesy of SkySports.com

These athletes have spoken out against the environmental conditions and the dangers they bring. Pau Turina, a junior rower on the US world team, described his experience with the Rio’s waterways. 

“It was nauseating,” Turina said. “I could hardly focus on rowing with the smell and all that trash.”

How can athletes be expected to compete at the top tier with the environment limiting them?  New rounds of tests performed by AP last August show how widespread the virus levels  have become.  The water hasn’t gotten any cleaner, the contamination has actually spread past the shores and into the streets.  Some places far inland are brimming with even more pathogens than the ocean, according to AP’s report.

The city hasn’t shown any initiative towards cleaning up in time for the games, despite the promises of the city of Rio and the Olympic Committee.  By ignoring these alarms, Rio will endanger both athletes and all of the spectators who will flock to Rio’s venues this August.

The second factor scaring a lot of people is the Zika virus, which is still running rampant throughout Brazil.  According to the WHO, the mosquito-borne virus could easily rise to “epidemic” status.  The Zika outbreak, causing brain defects in newborn children, plagued much of South and Central America this year.  According to the BBC, the WHO is concerned about the virus spreading to Europe this summer.  World health officials have done their best to inform people about and treat the virus.  However, a vaccination is yet to be developed. 

Anyone traveling to Rio this summer for the Olympics faces the risk of contracting the Zika virus.  The outbreak poses an even bigger threat to pregnant women.  In Brazil alone, there have been hundreds of babies born with deformed brains and diagnosed with Zika.  Thousands of others cases are suspected.  Many female athletes have turned down their opportunities to compete in the Olympics, fearing their unborn children could develop serious birth defects.

“I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” star of the US soccer team, Hope Solo told Sports Illustrated.  Solo said that she fears that athletes and Olympic visitors wishing to become mothers ought to be wary of Zika’s prevalence in Brazil.

“Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike.”

The rise of Zika, paired with an ocean of stagnant sewage water and a surge of new hosts for the mosquitos, provides a perfect catalyst for larvae to hatch and thrive.  The city of Rio certainly isn’t ready to host the Olympics, let alone fight a horrifying epidemic at the same time. 

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Masses flocking to Rio’s popular beaches make it easy for groups of thieves to escape.  These crowds, like this one on November, 20, pose a threat to security.  Photo courtesy of RioOnWatch.

Lastly, the recent wave of crime that has taken hold of Rio de Janeiro threatens the safety of mass amounts of people traveling to the city for the games.  Groups of thieves regularly attack and rob beachgoers on Rio’s shores, according to CNN.  There’s also concerns about tourists wandering into the city’s infamous favelas.  These slums are home to an estimated 1.4 million people and have been drug gang territory for decades.  Despite Brazilian Army infiltration, the neighborhoods still yield soaring murder and crime rates. 

Security has been beefed up throughout the city according to Rio Security Chief Jose Mariano Beltrame.  Though more police may be prevalent, these officers have shown an inability to enforce the law simply because there are already too may people.  Beltrame said he can’t guarantee there won’t be incidents.  It’s certain things will get even less secure with the influx of Olympic spectators.  

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics can easily be compared to the 2014 World Cup, also held in Brazil.  According to Reuters, less than half of Brazilians favored hosting the event, believing it would cause more harm than good for the country.  Additionally, the Cup was defined by several crises including a bridge collapse, a monorail derailing, stadium breaches and protests. This left people thinking Brazil might be unfit to plan and host such a large event.

Because of its toxicity, potential for outbreak and its sweeping crime wave, Rio de Janeiro is certainly inhospitable to the 2016 Summer Olympics.  It’s not like cancelling the Olympic Games is a radical new idea.  They have been called off before.  The 1916 Berlin Summer Games, the 1940 Japan Summer and Winter Games and the 1944 London Summer Games were all aborted because of ongoing World Wars.  There’s no shame in scrapping these games, other than wasting millions of dollars on the grounds and its promotion.  We should ask more of its Olympic venue.  This is a historical event going back thousands of years.  The world’s finest athletes and their accompanying fans deserve better than this.  We shouldn’t have to settle for a world stage where lives will surely be at risk.

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A concept design for the Rio Olympic Park (right) compared to construction as of April 2016, claiming “over 90 percent complete”.  Photos courtesy of WilkinsonEyre and RioTimesOnline.



Categories: Health, Injury, Nation & World, nature, Opinion, Other, PLU, Politics, soccer, Sports, study away, The Mast

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