We’ve been bitching about the Rio Olympics for a long time now, however quaint our original complaint – sewage and garbage-laden Guanabara Bay – seems in light of recent developments; something of a coup d’etat/impeachment, a crumbling economy, and Zika, which blows them all away.
The Zika virus is potentially so bad that no less than the prestigious Harvard Public Health Review just published a scathing editorial calling for the postponement of the Games to prevent a new and dangerous pandemic. Read the whole thing and let your own NGB know what you think about it, we’ll leave you with this excerpt:
But for the Games, would anyone recommend sending an extra half a million visitors into Brazil right now? Of course not: mass migration into the heart of an outbreak is a public health no-brainer. And given the choice between accelerating a dangerous new disease or not—for it is impossible that Games will slow Zika down—the answer should be a no-brainer for the Olympic organizers too. Putting sentimentality aside, clearly the Rio 2016 Games must not proceed.
Regrettably, instead of discussing the alternatives, both the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization seem to be in deep denial. Asked about Zika, the most senior member of the IOC, Dick Pound, mocked it as “a manufactured crisis” for anyone but pregnant women (manufactured by whom?). With the most recent epidemiological evidence out of Rio, and new clinical studies all but proving that Zika causes microcephaly and, maybe, Guillain-Barré disease, the IOC’s sanguine, official statement on Zika and the Games from January 2016 is hopelessly obsolete—that organization must now break its months-long silence.
Even worse is WHO, which has never issued an official statement on Zika and the Olympics. When I pressed WHO about that in April, through a spokesperson it “agreed with” the IOC’s obsolete statement, but refused to answer the direct question of whether WHO has confidence in Rio’s Games being safe. It is deplorable, incompetent and dangerous that WHO, which has both public health expertise and the duty of health protection, is speechlessly deferring to the IOC, which has neither. WHO’s hesitancy is reminiscent of its mistakes with Ebola, all over again.