Host faces issues ahead of Games

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Host faces issues ahead of Games

As the first summer games held in South America, all eyes are on the 2016 Rio Olympics and its host nation Brazil.

But even though the event is just around the corner, Brazil seems to be in a precarious situation with issues such as the Zika virus and political turmoil.

The recent outbreak of the Zika virus is a major concern for the Brazilian authorities.

Spread through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the virus induces fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. However, symptoms are sometimes so mild that patients don’t even realize they’re infected.

There is currently no vaccine or medicinal treatment for the virus, though the mortality rate is extremely low. Nevertheless, the disease is widely feared as it may lead to microcephaly in babies, a medical condition causing incomplete brain development.

As of mid-April there have been 1,113 confirmed cases of infants born with microcephaly in Brazil. Of those, 170 have been attributed to Zika, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

The Brazil Olympic Committee (BOC) announced in February that by the time the Olympics begin in August, the weather will have gotten cooler and there will be fewer mosquitos, decreasing the risk of Zika.

Despite the statement, many athletes have expressed their concern, and a few have even refused to participate in the Olympics. One of these was Fijian golf veteran Vijay Singh, who said he would focus instead on the PGA Tour.

“I would like to play in the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know …” Singh said to Golf Channel, trailing off. “I feel bad and I wanted to play, but I finally decided against it. It’s in the middle of the Tour over here and I’m trying to figure out my game.”

Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh, who participated in the Olympics test event in Rio, said, “Mosquitoes are really aggravating. Even during the finals, mosquitoes were biting. Fighting against Mosquitoes will be one of the biggest challenges during the Rio Olympics.”

Another health-related headache for Brazilian authorities is the spread of H1N1 flu. At the moment, about 1,012 patients have been diagnosed.

In additional to health-related issues, there are also some major environmental problems.

Guanabara Bay is the venue for events such as rowing and sailing. But due to pollution caused by sewage and garbage, the bay is filled with bacteria and viruses, including drug-resistant “super bacteria” normally found in hospitals that is difficult to treat, according to the Associated Press. Although Brazilian officials have tried to amend the problem, progress has been sluggish and most efforts by the government have been criticized as temporary measures.

There is also the problem of social unrest caused by political turmoil within the nation.

Adding to the economic stagnation and negative growth in gross domestic product for four straight quarters, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been caught up in a corruption scandal. Calls to impeach Rousseff have been spreading throughout the country, leading Brazil’s senate to consider moving forward with impeachment hearings.

In addition, the nation’s minister of sports, George Hilton, resigned on March 30, only four months before the summer games are scheduled to begin.

BY KIM JI-HAN, CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]

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