Commentary: The Olympics false start on zika and poverty

By Derrick Miller

Rio Olympics2016The Olympics, as many scholars have noted, started in Greece around the eighth century BC. Today the evolution has seen over 200 countries now under one roof known as an international sporting event.

It brings together some of the world’s best male and female athletes, which is expected to attract between 500,000 to a million people.

A delicate balance: Unlike other global events, this 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is no stranger to questions from its governing body, decisions, rules, corruption to medical science, and the financial burden a nation can face to host these games:

However, the zika virus transmitted through mosquito bite or sexual activity, and a drug-resistant “super bacteria as reported in nearby waters, will be this event’s main attraction. Travelers have to be on high alert to protect themselves from the potential risks, including crime.

These events tend to bring seismic changes to a country. The physical and social tolls often get overlooked and especially local communities that have suffered could use a local medical or job relay baton out of poverty.

Brazil’s economic outlook, as a few analysts see not only a deep recession, coupled with political turmoil, corruption, high unemployment and inflation, has created more turmoil.

However, Brazil is not alone in managing this virus, as athletes who may contract the disease will return to their poor communities struggling to find medication and support from the exposure.

Rio Protest 2016

Photo Credit: Indianexpress

The missing spikes: The dark sides of these games, in spite of the medical concerns, wherever these games land every four years, you have protests from the many locals left wondering, holding only an empty goal net, calling foul and false start whether from South Africa to Rio, hoping to reach an economic finish line.

For many years, there has been a significant gap between the haves and the have-nots, which has created many false starts on poverty, isolation and a failure to discuss poor community issues.

The IOC, given the health concerns, should be now looking beyond winning gold medals, and now saving lives.

Unlike the Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention (CDC), which suggested added insurance and other precautions, that is just a temporary fix, this issue is a marathon.

Like the 2014 World Cup, beneath the glitter, many poor and powerless are uprooted and diminished in obscurity for another four years. And the return on investment only goes to the top performing people.

This is not an investigative report to tell men or women who may have planned on attending the Olympics other than for the games to engage in sex to use a condom, or pregnant women to get out of town.

Simply put, beyond the reported revenue from the 2016 games, ratings, and new records, medal counts, many attendees will return to their native land to face similar health, socio-economic, crime and other issues that could use an Olympic torch or relay to anchor out of poverty.

Without the Olympics, the zika virus and other social issues dominating the media would have simply be something “over there” like the Ebola outbreak: “Over there.”

Beyond Brazil: What seems as an isolated problem has now reached the US and beyond.

An illustration of the Zika Virus, which symptoms include mild headaches, maculopapular rash, fever, malaise, conjunctivitis, and arthralgia. Picture seen under a microscope

According to USA Today, about ten cases were found in South Florida that are likely spread from mosquito bites and not only from travelling outside the US.

Zika has the potential to become major problem in the islands, coupled with other ongoing health issues they struggle to prevent and control.

The Jamaican government’s minister of health, according to the Observer, is still unsure of the amount of pregnant women cases, moreover who have may have contracted it through sexual contact or mosquitoes.

Kemar Baily Cole, who ran along Usain Bolt on Jamaica’s gold winning 4×100 relay at the 2012 London Olympics, reported that he has the virus.

How Mr Cole contracted this disease is a private matter, however, it a wakeup call in the region that more awareness should be done in combating this epidemic.

The economic stagnation in the region, and the millions spent in getting teams to Rio should be as important as how they manage and reduce the zika impact after the Olympics, or to build a healthier nation for the next star.

Many still have a disability from the earlier chikungunya virus and now few are unable to differentiate the current symptoms from the zika virus.

Zika is not a disease that can be waited out until it passes like a hurricane, or it can be sprayed away with untested pesticides that over time only create more health issues.

What next – banning people from travelling who can afford to seek treatment elsewhere, or local quarantine that only isolates these poor and vulnerable people?

There are plenty of opinions, research and blame for how it is being handled on the global stage.

However, has anyone wondered why these mosquitoes and other strains of bacteria have now left the jungle into the cities?

Rio 2016Sadly, this false start began years ago, and I am not a tree-hugging environmentalist, or scientist organizing a march against the problem of cutting down the rainforest for billions to fill global demand for lumber and other products.

As studies have shown, when the soil becomes unfertile from the deforestation, it can also cut the ability to find new medicine.

Whether Brazil or elsewhere, logging has an awoken maybe a sleeping giant. However, this is not an opinion about climate change, or air masses.

The zika virus, especially in these poor and developing regions, seems to lack a coordinated effort to tackle this disease because it will spread after the Olympics.

For few stars, especially pro-golf players, opted out due to health concerns. Regardless of one’s own reason, health, safety, or the unknown for the love of country or not, this awareness is bigger than the games.

Stars are often born at an Olympic game, and few athletes from the Caribbean region and other places would have liked to cut this trip, but the preparation for a lifetime and potential of another Usain Bolt or other has diminished the health risk.

Additionally, Brazil’s economic boost for the home country, opting out could be a financial suicide.

This Olympics may be is a good evil as the world is now spinning out of control with violence and isolation on many geopolitical issues. So a few seconds pause, getting people together, could be worth watching.

Sometimes, beyond the local events venues, pitch or fields, whether Italian, Irish, France, Dutch, British, African, and from the Caribbean, few pause all political differences, tension, races, cultural and socio-economic background to give a nod to their ancestors’ roots.

On any other day, everyone is an American.

Finally, one hopes that the next IOC or the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) games continue to be a melting pot when the gun or whistle goes off. However, it should emphasize that no one is being left unhealthy; including those who are in the stands, or outside hoping to get in.

Poor Brizilians

Photo Credit: Obv.org.uk

After the Olympic flame is out, cultural, socio-economic, crime and other development issues can find a good healthy resting place that the mosquitoes are now searching to find themselves.

After these games, many lives will be changed in an instant for better or worse

One hopes that these 200 nations can stand on the podium for peace, safety, health and prosperity, whether a sprint or a marathon, or a false start without leaving leaving others behind.

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