The Olympic Games in Rio are seven months away and Jamaica is looking forward to another world-class performance from its elite athletes. Usain Bolt will be going for an unprecedented third sprint triple including a new world record in the 200m and Shelly Ann Frazer-Pryce will be hoping for an unprecedented third consecutive 100-metre title.
Elaine Thompson will be hoping she can turn the tables on Dafne Schippers. Danielle Williams will have ambitions of another gold medal run in the hurdles while Hansle Parchment and Omar McLeod will be looking to assert themselves on what is expected to be a quality hurdles field.
Meanwhile, Yohan Blake will be looking to make an impressive return following his one gold and two silver medals from London 2012. Asafa Powell will be going for his first individual medal while Nesta Carter and Kemar Bailey Cole will be hoping to deliver big time on the world’s biggest stage.
But will this be possible given the potential threat that the Zika virus poses to the Jamaicans and indeed, the more than 10,000 athletes expected to converge on Brazil this summer? The United Nations is considering whether to declare the rapidly spreading outbreak of the Zika Virus as a worldwide emergency and already medical experts are scurrying to make concrete determinations on the potential impact of the virus on the estimated half-million people expected to visit the South American country for the two-week global sports spectacle.
More than 1.5 million Brazilians are believed to have already contracted the virus that is believed to cause birth defects in pregnant women and paralysis in some victims.
My greatest fear is the risk to the athletes and for more than one reason. The most obvious is the fact that the athletes could become infected and then come down with illness just prior to competition which would have an impact on the quality of some of the events on show. Imagine, Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt, coming down with fever, conjunctivitis and joint pain on the eve of the blue ribbon event at the Olympics, the 100-metre dash.
Everyone would lose. The organizers, sponsors and most importantly, the fans, who would have been robbed of seeing Bolt achieve new levels of stardom in what could very well be his last Olympic Games.
There is also the risk of the virus spreading globally at a much faster rate. Authorities in Brazil believe the virus arrived in Brazil in 2014 when millions converged in that country for the FIFA World Cup. Now with the Olympics it could move into new regions because it will have a minimum of 500,000 new hosts to travel by.
I am wondering if it would not be prudent for the International Olympic Committee to look at naming an alternative site for the Games this summer. I am well aware that Brazil has spent billions of dollars in preparation for the Games. If they are not able to recoup some of it, the impact on their already ailing economy would be deleterious. But the potential for tens of thousands of women potentially giving birth to malformed babies could be just as devastating.
Maybe it’s time the IOC start canvassing for alternative sites because unless Brazil can find a way to stem the spread of this virus, it would be in the best interest of the planet to have someone else host the Olympic Games.