The Current

Zika concerns prompt call to 'postpone or move' Rio Olympic Games

The Zika virus is a serious cause for concern in Rio weeks before the Summer Games kick off. So serious, it has many wondering if Olympic glory is worth the risk, calling to cancel or move the Games - for the sake of athletes and to prevent Zika`s spread.
Local workers have been disinfecting the famous Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil since Jan. 2016, to fight against the Zika, Dengue and Chikunguna viruses. The carnival stadium Sambadrome will host the archery events during the Summer Olympic Games Rio 2016. (Marcelo Sayao/EPA)

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Despite efforts to contain the spread of the Zika virus, the number of suspected cases in Rio de Janeiro is the highest of any state in Brazil. In February, the World Health Organization elevated the virus outbreak to a public health emergency. 

For some Olympic athletes, the threat of Zika means weighing the glory of competition with the possible effects of a potentially harmful virus. 

Earlier this year, U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo said she is "scared" and had a lot of reservations about going to the Olympics. "There's really no clear answers to it. If things stood as they are, I probably would not go," Solo says.

It's not only athletes considering pulling out of the Rio Games. Some public health specialists are calling for the Rio Games to be cancelled, postponed, or moved to another location. 

Guests in this segment:

  • Amir Attaran, professor of law and public health at the University of Ottawa.  His paper was published in the Harvard Public Health Review outlining the threat to global health if the Olympic Games continue as planned in Rio de Janeiro. 
  • Kevin Wamsley, academic vice-president and provost at the St. Francis Xavier University and former director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at Western University.
  • Andrew Zimbalist, author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup and professor of economics at Smith College.

The Current asked the Canadian Olympic Committee to comment but no one was available for an interview. However, the COC sent a statement saying the safety of athletes and coaches is a top priority and that: 

"Team Canada's medical team is monitoring all health risks in and around Rio in anticipation of the upcoming Games and is taking appropriate steps to ensure our athletes can compete without worries."

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry, Idella Sturino and Hamutal Dotan.