The Summer Olympics are coming! We’re less than two months away from the opening ceremonies, so I guess it’s time to start getting aroused about eventually having our every-four-years itch for world-class track and gymnastics scratched. Except it’s different this time around. At last counting, nearly half of all Americans believe the Olympics should be delayed or cancelled altogether. I’m one of those Americans. We talk about all the reasons that going forward with the Summer Games is a mistake on this week’s Unpopular Opinion podcast …
… where I’m joined by comics Jeff May and Caitlin Cutt. It’s also what I’m talking about in this column here today. Up first, let’s get the most obvious fear out of the way.
# 5. The Zika Virus
Remember the statistic I quoted earlier about Americans who believe the Olympics should be cancelled? It was like three sentences ago. Humor me and pretend you read the intro. Anyway, the person or persons questioned in that survey were carrying their concerns about merely one issue: the Zika virus.
It’s kind of difficult to comprehend how much of a problem Zika already is and could be in the future, because it’s not one of those Hollywood movie plagues which cause people to bleed from the eyes and discharge their liquefied innards through their already-overworked orifices. In adults, the symptoms are similar to a mild version of dengue fever, if there are any symptoms at all.
However, pregnant women who become infected can spread it to their fetus, at which point the impact of the disease becomes style more noticeable. The standout performer in the arsenal of brain defects and issues it leads to is microcephaly, in which the brain stops developing in the womb. Since the brain isn’t growing, the skull merely kind of collapses around it, leaving your kid with a head that’s about half the size of a normal head.
A small cost to pay for getting Usain Bolt’s autograph .
The Zika virus needs three things to be in place before it can truly take hold in any given area: the Aedes aegypti mosquito, crowded human dwellings, and poverty. The Olympics are in Brazil this year. If you’re even sort of familiar with that place, you already know that two of those three things are so common there that they might as well be on the flag( along with handguns and beautiful people ). It won’t surprise you at all to know they do, in fact, have the necessary mosquitoes as well. As a result, the CDC slapped a level 2 alerting on the country to warn travelers about Zika. What does that mean? I don’t know, but it’s worse than level 1, and level 3 means you merely shouldn’t go there at all, so it’s not great. And that’s without thousands of people from in all regions of the world converging on Rio at the exact same time.
Last month, 150 physicians signed a letter recommending the World Health Organization to postpone or cancel video games. The WHO responded by releasing a statement meant to reassure us that the threat of Zika spreading during the Olympics was slimed, because mosquito activity in Brazil is usually on the deterioration by August.
If that doesn’t do much to make you feel better about it, you’re not alone. Several scientists have already come forward to point out that what the WHO is saying is based, at least in part, on the idea that the climate is likely to be cooler and less rainy in August. Mosquito eggs don’t succumb; they just go dormant when the climate gets cold. However, that literally changes with the climate. Any sudden rise in heat or humidity, and those eggs will hatch. But hey, the weather’s been pretty easy to predict lately, right?
Also, it’s worth noting that the WHO is the same organization that accepted cash from food companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle in exchange for those companies having a say in how we oppose obesity and diabetes in the United States. That’s like letting narcotic cartels have a say in how to keep cocaine from entering the country. Call me crazy, but I guess I trust those 150 physicians a little more than the WHO.
Even if the Zika virus doesn’t become a pandemic as a result of the Olympics, it’s still a pretty safe bet that at least some of the athletes brave enough to participate will get sick, because of …
# 4. The Pollution
Part of the appeal of the Olympics coming to town is that, in theory, some of the work done to get ready for a production of that magnitude will have long-term benefits for residents after the games objective. That’s probably not going to happen for Brazil. One of the biggest improvements was supposed to happen in Guanabara Bay, which looks beautiful from a distance in stock photos …
So pretty !
… but a little less so when you see it up close.
It’s brimming with raw sewage and other assorted pollutants. Back when the dream of the 2016 Olympics not becoming a full-on disaster was alive, it was estimated that 50 percent of the water flowing into the bay was sewage. That’s pretty gross, but the government of Brazil promised to reduce that by 80 percent before the opening ceremonies rolled around. Which was in the best interest of everyone, actually, seeing as how a “super-bug” that’s resistant to antibiotics was also found in the water around that time.
Unfortunately, Brazil being the hotbed of corruption that it is, the money that was allocated to clean up the bay has apparently gone missing, and the promise of a less polluted Guanabara Bay for Olympic athletes is now off the table. They swear the pollution doesn’t pose a health risk, as does the IOC, but that’s because none of their testing is checking for viral pathogens, like the super-bug mentioned earlier.
You can’t maybe fathom how long I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use this stock photo .
Stories of athletes in practice events coming down with stomach illnesses have already started making the rounds online, but that’s apparently not going to stop hundreds more from swimming or boating in literal shit water in pursuit of Olympic gold.
Even worse, their own problems might even extend to the drinking water, as pointed out in this article which covers all the various immunizations a person should get before traveling to Brazil.
So even if Zika doesn’t infect a single additional person as a result of the Olympics, the toilet water some athletes will be forced to compete in will still guarantee that a lot of people get sick. I suppose it’s worth it if it means you might get to live the stone star lifestyle of an Olympic-medal-winning sailor afterward, but I certainly wouldn’t want to risk it.
# 3. The Infrastructure
Along with the project to provide water that won’t make your bowels feel like you went to Taco Bell ten times at once, do you know what also won’t be finished in time for the Olympics? Everything else. Maybe I’m exaggerating it a bit, but there are definitely some significant construction projects that still haven’t been completed. Like the velodrome, for example.
If you’re unfamiliar, that’s the science-fiction-sounding term that’s used to describe the arena where cycling competitors take place. It’s an important part of the Olympic experience, and Brazil still hasn’t finished building one yet. In fact, the governmental forces merely cancelled the contract of the company house it. This seems like a good time to remind everyone that we’re less than 50 days away from the start of the games.
At least this cable car that helps tourists take sweet scenes got done in time !
Even if they do manage to finish house it in time, they’ve probably cut it too close to allow for any sort of test events prior to the start of rivalry. That was supposed to happen back in March, but had to be called off because the track wasn’t even installed by that point.
The lack of a test event is especially concerning when you consider the already unfortunate history of bike-related projects associated with these Olympics. I’m referring to the Ciclovia Tim Maia, a massive bicycle path that was completed in January. Almost as soon as it opened, the path became a target for muggers. Which is bad, but still preferable to the latest problem, which is that part of it merely straight-up collapsed into the raging ocean waters below, killing two people.
Pictured above: good reason to worry .
That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear alongside tales of how buildings which hold thousands of people will be rushed to completion so the games can go on. Another rushed task will be an extension of the public transportation system that’s being counted on to shuttle visitors between tourist regions like Ipanema and the various places where events will be held. The most recent projections have it being completed just four days before the start of video games.
That’s presuming there are no further delays, which seems unlikely when you take into account that the governor of Rio de Janeiro merely proclaimed a state of emergency due to fiscal obligations related to the Olympics. Apparently, a mass influx of federal funds is needed to prevent a “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management.”
Of course, it’s not like Brazil wasn’t already on the brink of that before the Olympics came to town. That’s why …