Tag Archives: Olympics

Officials Call for Rio Games to be Postponed Amidst Zika Fears

Posted on in 2016 Summer Olympics - Security Update title_rule

One-hundred-and-fifty-two health experts have signed a letter calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to either halt the upcoming Olympic games in Brazil or move it elsewhere.

The letter warns that some 500,000 foreign tourists are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro, which would lead to the virus being spread to countries where it may not have reached.   It further states that the Zika virus has more serious medical consequences than first through and claims that the health emergency contains “many uncertainties.” One of the authors of the letter, Professor Amir Attaran, has stated that the games risk becoming the “Olympics of brain damage.” He believes that allowing the Olympics to go ahead would lead to the birth of more brain damaged children.

The letter also calls into question the relationship between the UN health agency and the IOC, which entered an official partnership in 2010. Professor Attaran states that the partnership between the WHO and the IOC was “beyond the pale” and calls the independence of the WHO into questions. He states that “it is ignorant and arrogant for the WHO to march hand-in-hand with the IOC,” adding, “how can it be ethical to increase the risk of spreading the virus? Just because a fire has begun doesn’t mean you need to pour gasoline on it.”

The WHO however has rejected the call, stating that suspending or moving the event would “not significantly alter” the spread of the virus. A statement released by the WHO indicates that “based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus,” adding, “Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which to-date reporting continuing transmission of Zika by mosquitoes…People continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons…The best way to reduce the risk of disease is to follow public health travel advise.”

The Zika virus has been linked to serious birth defects including microcephaly-where babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. It has also been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, which affect the nervous system. Nearly 1,300 babies have been born in Brazil with microphaly since the mosquito-borne Zika began circulating last year. The majority of those infected with the virus have no symptoms, however it can cause mild illness with symptoms that include rashes, fever and headaches. Pregnant women have already been advised not to travel to Rio de Janeiro, however the WHO has indicated that the risk of Zika will lessen in August because it is winter in Brazil.

While no Olympic Games has been moved because of health concerns, in 2003, FIFA moved the Women’s World Cup from China over fears of the respiratory virus SARS.

The Rio games are due to begin on 5 August.

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Olympic Torch Lit as Countdown to Rio Games Begins

Posted on in 2016 Summer Olympics - Security Update title_rule

The flame for the Summer Olympic Games, which will be hosted by Brazil, has been lit in southern Greece.

During Thursday’s ceremony, actor Katerina Lehou performed the role of high priestess lit the torch by using the sun’s rays, offering a mock prayer to Apollo, the old Greek god of light and music. She lit the torch within a few seconds by using a concave mirror to catch the sunlight. She then delivered the flame to Greek world gymnastics champion Eleftherios Petrounias, the first runner in the torch relay. The ritual, which was established eighty years ago for the Berlin Games, is based on a ceremony in Ancient Olympia where games were held for more than 1,000 years.

The torch will be taken to various runners on an international relay that will culminate at the opening ceremony in Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 5 August. The chief organizer of the Games, Carlos Nuzman, has promised to “delivery history,” stating that the Olympics would unit Brazil, which is beset by political and economic crises. Brazil President Dilma Rousseff was forced to cancel her trip to ancient Olympia because of the impeachment threat that she faces.

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), before the flame arrives in South America, it will begin a six-day relay across Greece, passing through the town of Marathon, which gave its name to the long distance race, as well as a camp for refugees and migrants in Athens. The flame is due to arrive in Brazil on 3 May for a 100-day relay across the country. It will travel through 500 cities and villages in every Brazilian state and will be carried by about 12,000 torch bearers.

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