Olympic Games: Zika updates from
around the World as Rio 2016 draws ever closer
by Michael O'Neill
February 13, 2016
(FEB 13) The International
Olympic Committee (IOC), National sports federations round the
world and of course athletes themselves are all seeking the
latest updates on the Zika outbreak and what effect it could
have on stars and visitors alike when the XXX1 Olympiad opens
its doors to welcome ‘the world’ in August.
Here WBAN brings you the ‘latest news’ as at the time of writing
as to what advice is being sought and received through the
various interested parties and we also have the thoughts of some
of the athletes inc current Olympic champion boxer, Ireland’s
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has been telling U.S
media outlets including the Associated Press and CNN and ABC
“The U.S. Olympic Committee will bring in two infectious disease
specialists to give advice to athletes ahead of the Olympic
games in Rio de Janeiro this summer”.
In a letter sent to athletes, Scott Blackmum, the CEO of the
USOC, said the athletes' well-being was the "highest priority."
"I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to
many of you," Blackmun said, according to the AP. "I want to
emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in
Rio this summer is our highest priority."
The disease specialists will be on-site in Brazil to advise
athletes about the Zika virus.
We have comment from Olympians, and also include the very latest
advice from the International Olympic Committee’s Chief Medical
Officer Dr Richard Budgett who briefed the Associated Press on
that subject on Thursday.
In a lengthy interview, the IOC medical director said
"everything that can be done is being done" to combat the virus
in Brazil and provide safe conditions for athletes at the
Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Dr. Budgett told “AP” that there are no health warnings against
traveling to Brazil, except for pregnant women.
"Our priority is to protect the health of the athletes, he went
on : "The IOC absolutely is not complacent. We do take this very
seriously. ... Everything is being done to contain and reduce
this problem in the lead-up to the Games."
"We can give the reassurance that authorities in Brazil are
taking it extremely seriously.
"Concern and worry is appropriate, but there is no restriction
on travel," Budgett added. "People need to take measures to
avoid being bitten and be sensible. There is no recommendation
from health authorities to change travel plans."
Had the IOC considered calling the Games off?
"Absolutely not," he went on. "No one from the public
authorities or World Health Organization or government ministry
are actually saying we should even consider cancelling the
British followers of Sport know Dr. Budgett very well since as a
rower he won Olympic gold alongside Sir Steve Redgrave in the
1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
He attended the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics as the doctor for
the British Bobsleigh Team, and the 1998, 2002, and 2006 Games
as Chief Medical Officer to the British Team.
He also led the Team GB HQ Medical Team at the 1996, 2000, and
2004 Summer Olympic Games, and London 2012 was his 12th Olympic
Games. He is presently again with the GB team at the Youth
Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
So what do the athletes themselves think? What are their
concerns? United States soccer star Hope Solo had this to say:
"All I can do is speak for myself. If the Olympics were today, I
would not go," she earlier this week in Frisco, Texas.
Budgett said comments such as Solo's are both ‘positive and
"It shows people are taking their health seriously and want to
protect their health. That's good," he said. "It's negative in
that it's not actually following the advice of health
Ultimately, he said, the choice is up to each individual.
"You certainly can never force anyone to go," he said. "We just
have to keep reiterating the official advice of world health
The agent of leading British track and field star, Jessica Ennis
has called for the British Olympic Association to move its
pre-Olympic training camp from Brazil to a Zika free country
though no GB stars have as yet said or implied they would not
attend the Games in Rio.
In Ireland, OCI Chief Executive, Stephen Martin confirmed that :
"Our medical team met the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Department of Health.
"They will be forwarding comprehensive information and guidance
documents to team leaders, support staff and athletes on our Rio
Stephen won an Olympic gold medal with the Great Britain hockey
team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics to go with a bronze from Los
Angeles four years earlier.
Aileen Reid competed for Ireland at London 2012 in the Triathlon
and is a medal contender for Rio.
She is aware of the dangers posed by the virus, as she told the
"I know about the Zika situation. It seems the major concern
would be for people who are trying to have a baby.
"That's going to affect a lot of the athletes because what you
tend to find is that in the year after an Olympic Games many
athletes have babies and take a break well in advance of the
"So it will affect both male and female athletes who are trying
for a baby."
As for possible medication to combat the virus, Aileen (33) told
the newspaper: "I really don't want to be taking any medication
that I don't absolutely have to. You don't want to take anything
that might affect your performance after four years of
Aileen in fact took part in an Olympic test event in Rio last
year. "We were informed that the water quality for the swim was
not the best but we were promised moves are afoot to have
everything up to scratch for the Olympics in the summer," she
"As far as I am concerned, the Zika virus is just another
obstacle we have to prepare for."
What about one of Ireland’s main hopes in Rio, boxer Katie
Taylor. She has been in Cork this week speaking at the iWish
Conference encouraging young people to study STEM subjects
(Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). As one of
Ireland’s most loved athlete and a great roel model she
regularly is called upon to speak to and inspire students, young
and old, male and female.
Is she concerned about Zika? Speaking to delegates and later
with media sources in Cork , the Bray woman commented:
“It’s not really something that I’m thinking too much about at
the moment, it’s definitely out of my control,” she said at
Thursday’s I WISH conference in Cork City Hall.
“At the moment I’m just focusing on getting to Rio first thing,
and to qualify, and once I qualify hopefully I start thinking
about that. I know that the Olympic Council of Ireland are doing
everything they can do to prepare us for those viruses and to
protect us when we are over there. It’s not really something
that I would be too worried about, as I said, it’s out of my
control. We’ve had a few meetings with them already, with the
athletes, so they are preparing us for those situations,” she
She repeated that athletes had been kept informed via both Irish
Sports Council (Sport Ireland) and the Olympic Council.
So that’s the latest we have on Zika situation though we
understand that the Rio 2016 Organisers will be communicating
with all National Federations and IOC members in the days ahead
and thus we will update you again in the coming weeks. Meantime
do seek out your own National Federation’s advice and check out
the latest from both CDC and WHO.
The excellent CDC site is regularly updated on the subject as
indeed is the World Health Organisation’s but athletes and
spectators will also have different queries and concerns thus do
check out a few sites including those mentioned while major
media organisations around the world will also keep you updated