RIO 2016

Athletes worried about Zika before Rio Olympic test event

With the summer Games fast approaching, concerns are mounting about the proliferation of the mosquito-borne virus in the host city.

Athletes worried about Zika before Rio Olympic test event
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA AFP

International athletes set to compete in an Olympic diving test event in Rio de Janeiro next week have asked about risks linked to the Zika virus, but have not canceled participation because of the outbreak, one of the organisers said on Friday.

“They are concerned and are being given advice on how to proceed", Cassius Duran, a former Brazilian diver, told reporters at the inauguration of the remodeled Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, where the Olympic diving will be held in August.

"There is a problem, but there is also a lot of exaggeration and ignorance"

Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes

Duran said organisers were telling athletes to use repellents to protect themselves against mosquito bites, the primary means of transmission of the virus. The test event, which runs from 19 to 24 February, is a stage of the Diving World Cup and 270 athletes from 50 countries are due to compete.

The Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre will host the diving and synchronized swimming at the upcoming Olympic Game

Athletes and visitors planning to come to the Olympics have expressed concern about Zika, a virus linked to birth defects in newborns, which has been reported in more than 30 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Olympic organisers have previously said the games would be held during Rio's winter when there tends to be fewer mosquitoes. However, a Reuters report this week showed there was not always a decline in mosquito-borne infections during that season.

Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes (R) during the official launching of the 2016 Carnival

Rio's Mayor Eduardo Paes said the city was pulling out all stops to ensure the safety of athletes. “We are doing everything to avoid any type of danger for any of the athletes who come”, he said.

There is a Zika problem, but I think there is also a certain amount of exaggeration and ignorance. It is this that frightens more than the virus itself”.