The 2016 Summer Olympics are set to get underway in Rio on August 5, and with them comes a great deal of controversy. Everything from the Zika virus to the state of the athletes’ village to the social and economic conditions in Rio has been in the news the past months.
Speaking to the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Bob Costas, NBC primetime host, said although every city faces setbacks in the months leading up to the Olympics, the problems in Rio are worse.
“Rio probably has the biggest array of problems or potential problems,” Costas said (quoted in USA Today). “We would be naïve to think that they don’t face security problems, that they don’t face problems with sanitation, that their government is not in upheaval.”
Among the issues athletes will face is pollution, which is already having an effect on some sports. The water, for example, is reportedly highly polluted and athletes in water sports have been told to keep their mouth closed as much as possible due to sewage and trash.
The US men and women’s basketball teams won’t be staying in the Olympic Village. Instead, they’ll stay aboard a luxury cruise ship called the Silver Cloud. The ship is anchored at Pier Maua, so pollution is still a concern. But security for the ship is tight, including an airport-style scanner, bulletproof fencing and security patrols. This is nothing new for the teams, however. They haven’t stayed in Olympic Village since the 1980s.
The fancy accommodations might add to the advantage the basketball teams have. Athletes and journalists alike have complained about the lodgings in Olympic Village. An Australian basketball player tweeted a photo of him putting together a shower curtain in his room so the shower could be used without flooding the room. Other reported concerns include exposed wiring, clogged toilets, and lack of security.
The Danish, Australian, and Chinese teams have complained about theft from Olympic Village. In the case of the Australian athletes, a laptop and team shirts were stolen when they evacuated their building due to a fire. A witness said she saw fire marshals take the shirts and thought they were gifts.
These concerns are all in addition to worries about Zika virus, which already led some athletes to pull out of the Olympic Games. Zika has now reportedly spread to the US, however, and because temperatures are cooler in Brazil there are fewer mosquitoes around to transmit the virus. The Zika virus can pose a threat to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Of course, all the concerns do not stop the athletes from focusing on their goals. They are in Rio de Janeiro to compete and to win. And over the next two weeks, they’ll have the opportunity to do just that.