Friday, May 13, 2016

Should the 2016 Rio Olympics Be Scrubbed?

A member of the medicine and law faculties of the University of Ottawa, writing for the Harvard Public Health Review, says the Rio Olympics should be "postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession," giving five reasons.

1. "Rio de Janeiro is more affected by Zika than anyone expected, rendering earlier assumptions of safety obsolete."
Rio de Janeiro’s suspected Zika cases are the highest of any state in in Brazil (26,000), and its Zika incidence rate is the fourth worst (157 per 100,000). Or in other words: according to the Brazil’s official data, Rio is not on the fringes of the outbreak, but inside its heart.
2. "...although Zika virus was discovered nearly seventy years ago, the viral strain that recently entered Brazil is clearly new, different, and vastly more dangerous than 'old' Zika."
Phylogenetic mapping demonstrates that this particular virus arrived in Brazil from French Polynesia in 2013. Although the danger went unnoticed in French Polynesia at first, retrospective analyses now show that the risk of microcephaly increased by 23 to 53 fold.

Later studies from Brazil now powerfully argue that the relationship is truly causal.
3. "...while Brazil’s Zika inevitably will spread globally — given enough time, viruses always do — it helps nobody to speed that up."
In particular, it cannot possibly help when an estimated 500,000 foreign tourists flock into Rio for the Games, potentially becoming infected, and returning to their homes where both local Aedes mosquitoes and sexual transmission can establish new outbreaks.
4. "...when (not if) the Games speed up Zika’s spread, the already-urgent job of inventing new technologies to stop it becomes harder."

5. "...proceeding with the Games violates what the Olympics stand for."
The International Olympic Committee writes that “Olympism seeks to create … social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”.  But how socially responsible or ethical is it to spread disease?  Sports fans who are wealthy enough to visit Rio’s Games choose Zika’s risks for themselves, but when some of them return home infected, their fellow citizens bear the risk too—meaning that the upside is for the elite, but the downside is for the masses.
In the build-up to the games, we hear all manner of assurances about the healthfulness and safety of the Rio venues. (Although I don't think I'd want to participate in any of the water events.) But Attaran's points raise a whole added dimension of concern over the advisability of Rio as a venue for the Olympics and Paralympics.

But big money--both that spent, committed, and anticipated--will likely leave these concerns, warranted or not, unheeded and not discussed.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]


Kano Limani said...
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chetna gupta said...
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