Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Feb. 13, 2016 — The last thing the Olympics needed

Last month, the U.S. Olympic Committee made a pronouncement that is going to make corporations, governing bodies of sport, television networks, and numerous other people extremely nervous.

In a conference call to governing bodies of the Olympic sports scheduled to compete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this summer, Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of performance and other officials spread the message that athletes who are uncomfortable with going to the Olympics because of the sudden threat of the Zika mosquito-borne virus shouldn’t go at all.

“One of the things that they immediately said was, especially for women that may be pregnant or even thinking of getting pregnant, that whether you are scheduled to go to Rio or no, that you shouldn’t go,” said Donald Anthony of USA Fencing. “And no one should go if they feel at all as though that that threat could impact them.”

Zika is a virus that is relatively benign to adult humans, causing fever, rash, joint pain and pink-eye in only about 20 percent of people infected. Hospitalization is rare.

However, the virus is associated with a sizable spike in a birth defect called microcephaly, which is marked by an abnormally small head.

The response by some government agencies has been a bit over-the-top in some places, with leaders comparing the aggregation of resources to the preparation for a Category V hurricane.

I think the USOC conference call was also a bit unnecessary because you’re dealing with an Olympic team which is about 50 percent male, and of the women on the team, it’s unlikely any of them will compete while pregnant.

But for the government of Brazil and the organizers, the Zika virus might very well be the tipping point in terms of the Olympics coming off as anything less than a major disaster. Much of the infrastructure has yet to be built, there have been massive cost overruns, and the open sewers that have flowed into the lakes and lagoons designated for the ocean swimming and boating events is dirtier than the Flint River.

And that’s saying something.


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