Hope Solo, the goalkeeper of USA’s women’s football team, is hesitant about travelling to Brazil for the Rio Olympics due to the outbreak of the deadly Zika virus in the South American country.
Heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill’s coach, Toni Minichiello, wants Britain to move their Rio 2016 camp out of Brazil due to the virus. Kipchoge Keino, the head of Kenya’s national Olympic committee, says he might consider withdrawing his team from the Rio Games if the “Zika virus reaches epidemic levels”.
Reports about the spread of the virus have caused athletes the world over to fret over the upcoming Olympics in August. However, the Rio-bound Indian athletes have shrugged off the threat.
India hockey captain Sardar Singh admitted the spread of the virus was “bad news”, but was confident organisers would take steps to ensure the safety of athletes.
“I haven’t had time to focus on what’s happening in Brazil because I was playing in the Hockey India League (HIL), but I have heard about the Zika virus. I hope the situation will be under control by August. I’m confident the organisers will take necessary measures to curb the strain,” said Sardar, brushing off the prospect of boycotting the Olympics if the situation did not get better.
Top pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, who will be participating in the women’s 10m air pistol event, said, “I’m not concerned, but I will be prepared. I’ve been waiting for the Olympics for so long. I remember during the 2008 Beijing Olympics a lot of people said the city was polluted. There’s always something or the other. It’s not like being an athlete I will wait for the perfect day to come, and then I will perform.”
Heena’s husband, Ronak Pandit, will travel to Rio as her coach. He pointed out, “I’m not at all concerned. Aren’t there crores of people living there already? We’re Indians - we live amongst filth and dirt and mosquitoes. We have a strong immune system because of the way we are brought up.
“By August, if there is any vaccination that we need to take, we’ll take it. We’ll take precautions like wearing full-sleeve clothes and carry mosquito-repellent creams.
“When I was representing India in the 2004 World Cup in Bangkok, there was a major scare of bird flu. There also we were warned against eating chicken and eggs. But I said we cannot be so paranoid.”
Gurpreet Singh, who will participate in the 25m rapid fire pistol event, said he was confident that a vaccine would be in place by then. He also said the National Rifle Association of India had sent them a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the measures they were taking to curb the outbreak.
“We have been sent a report from WHO about the virus and the measures they are taking. They also assured us that the Games are safe,” said Gurpreet.