The Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins are close to canceling an upcoming two-game series in Puerto Rico because of fears associated with the Zika virus. With baseball taking notice of the threat the virus poses, it’s fair to wonder if this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will be impacted as well.
“Baseball players have been the most outspoken about Zika, even as the Rio Games dawn with nearly 5,000 Brazilian babies suffering from microcephaly, a birth defect that leads to smaller heads and is linked to Zika. While fans have altered plans to travel to Brazil, no Olympic athlete has withdrawn from competition. The effect baseball’s Zika-related decisions have on the Olympics, as well as future international competitions, go beyond influencing other athletes.”
As this points out, no athletes have pulled out of the Olympics yet, but with just fewer than 100 days to go before the opening ceremonies, withdrawls could be coming. The United States Olympic Committee has already given American athletes the green light to pull out if they choose to do so.
With Zika, the lack of finished facilities, a host country in the grip of massive economic and political crises and sewage flowing into some aquatic venues, the 2016 Olympics are shaping up to be a disaster of epic proportions. It’s probably too late for the International Olympic Committee to move the games to another site, but it’s certainly not too late for countries to pull their athletes out.
The problem for potential participants is that many of them train for four years to get one shot on the Olympic stage. Would they be willing to surrender that one opportunity because they fear for their safety? I doubt it. Most of them build their entire lives around competing for Olympic glory.
The Olympics will likely go on as planned this summer, but the IOC has to learn a lesson from awarding the games to an unstable nation like Brazil.