This weekend sees the launch of the Rio Olympics, arguably the most prestigious event a county could have bestowed on them. The 2012 Olympics raised the bar for the two-week sporting spectacle and the legacy that the UK has adopted since will be forever lasting.
At the closing ceremony in 2012. London passed the torch to this year’s hosts, Rio. Yet with less than three days until the start of the Games, suggestions are showing that the torch has well and truly been dropped somewhere along the line, as a whole host of safety concerns have arisen in the lead up to the opening ceremony.
Team China’s complaints about the conditions they have experienced upon arrival in Rio dominate today’s headlines. Upon arriving for their two-week stay in the Olympic village, their athletes had to fit their own shower curtains among other issues and have described the Rio Olympics as the ‘worst ever’ and that is even before the first event has taken place.
Team GB have also had their concerns and even enlisted their own plumber as part of their travelling party amid fears over their accommodation, as there has been issues with blocked toilets and leaking pipes.
What are the concerns we need to now about when attending the Olympics?
There are a whole host of worries that visitors need to know about before making the trip to Rio. Here is a list of some of the main ones.
The Zika virus is transmitted both by mosquito bite and sexually and can cause birth defects in children of infected pregnant women.
In some sports, many of the top competitors have pulled out due to the fears. Irish golfer, Rory McIlroy is just one of the sport’s high ranking figures that have chosen not to travel, due to fears of contracting the Zika virus.
He released a statement saying: “My health and my family’s health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take. I trust the Irish people will understand my decision.”
The CDC earlier this year, advised pregnant women to avoid travelling to the games due to the high risk and the Zika epidemic has prompted 150 health professionals to lobby for the Games to be moved or postponed.
They also stated that the risk of other contracting Zika is much lower and that it will be fine to travel to Brazil for the Olympics. If you are travelling to Rio for the Olympics, then extra bug spray is a must.
Health and Sanitation
Water conditions in Rio is under intense scrutiny due to heavy contamination of raw human waste among other substances and there are warnings that swimmers would only need to ingest three teaspoons of water to almost guarantee infection with viruses.
These viruses could cause stomach bugs and respiratory illnesses and in the more severe cases heart and brain inflammation. There are genuine concerns that people could suffer fatally, such is the state of Rio’s water.
Athletes competing in watersports are almost certainly, at some stage, going to come into contact with disease causing viruses in the Rio water, say experts. The risk is high and with super bacteria and the like being reported, it might be best to stay out of Rio’s waters altogether.
What could make things worse is that the hospitals that are being recommended to Olympic tourists are already overcrowded, so should someone fall foul of the foul water and sanitation conditions, they might find it difficult to get the treatment they need.
We are now just a few days away from the Games beginning and yet some venues are still being completed. The venue that will host the rowing and canoeing competitions is reportedly still not completed, with just three days to go until the opening ceremony, although authorities say it will be ready by the time the competitions kick off on Saturday.
There is a fear that a rush to complete some of the venues has compromised safety. Last week, Team Australia evacuated their accommodation due to a small fire, revealing silenced fire alarms as a result.
Thankfully nobody was hurt in this occasion by the Australian Olympic Chief, Kitty Chiller was highly critical of the operation surrounding the venue, saying:
“What we have subsequently found is that the fire alarms had been silenced while they were carrying out maintenance on the building next door to ours,”
“We hadn’t been advised that the fire alarms were silenced, so how we found out was basically smoke in the corridors and stairwells.
“It’s absolutely not satisfactory at all.”
A cigarette in an outside bin caused the fire, which raises further concerns about those carrying out the work, as it is a no smoking venue.
This follows Team Australia’s refusal to move into their accommodation when they arrived a week earlier due to the shoddy conditions, including blocked toilets and dangerous wiring, although they have since confirmed that these issues are now rectified and the venue is now looking in better shape.
Crime and Terrorism
Rio has always had a big reputation for crime and it is important that tourists travelling are aware of this. Drug trafficking is a particularly prominent in Rio and violent crime rates are also very high, with around 42,000 people killed by guns every year.
The Olympic venues will be heavily policed and a report 85,000 security personnel will be on hand to help efforts to keep tourists safe while taking in the games.
Terrorism is pretty much a threat in most places these days, so perhaps it is wrong to single Rio out for this but it is worth advising people of the risks. Police in Rio were able to thwart a plot last week involving 10 ISIS members, although the plans for the attack they were planning have not been released.
Most websites are advising people to keep their embassy contact information to hand in case of an emergency and to try to avoid congregating in large groups.
Should the Olympics be cancelled?
This is the question on the minds of many. Is it really worth potentially jeopardising the health of thousands, just to honour the commitment of delivering the Olympics Games as scheduled? Lives are at risk, which is how serious some of the safety concerns really are.
The view of many health professionals is that the postponing the Games or moving them at the very least, is best due to there being too much risk, when you take into account the reputation that Rio has for crime and the recent concerns about terrorism.
However, there are some calls for calm over the negative press for Rio. United States rower, Megan Kalmoe, called for the media to “Stop trying to ruin the Olympics for us.” and neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department are attempting to dissuade people from attending.
In 2014, Rio hosted the football World Cup, so it is not the first time that the city has operated a major sports tournament in recent times. That biggest problem that tournament had to negotiate were political protestors, frustrated at the economical downturn of the country and angry over corruption.
The Olympics may expect the same treatment, but the World Cup was a success safety wise and enjoyed by most that made the journey to take it in.