Rio de Janeiro faces daunting challenges for 2016 games

Rio de Janeiro, along with the rest of Brazil, will be in the spotlight this summer when it hosts the summer Olympics for its first time. In fact, these games will be the first Olympics ever held in South America.

However, many concerns have recently been brought to light as to whether or not Brazil will be adequately prepared.

The recent outbreak of the  Zika virus in Brazil has become a major problem that could affect the upcoming Olympics. With about 500,000 people traveling to Brazil for the Olympics, the spread of Zika virus worldwide becomes a prominent threat. There are believed to be 1.5 million people in Brazil who have contracted the virus so far, which would make it rather easy for the disease to be transmitted to travelers during the time of the Olympics.

Although Zika is not harmful to the average person, at most resulting in flu-like symptoms, the virus can be extremely harmful to a pregnant woman’s unborn child. The virus can result in a child being born with severe birth defects and, most notably, an abnormally small head. There is currently no cure or vaccine for Zika virus, making it a poignant issue.

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, said that he does not believe that the Zika virus will be a problem for the Olympics because it will be held during South America’s winter season — when the weather is drier and cooler, and mosquitos will be easier to control.

The Olympics are going on as scheduled, and officials are keeping a close eye on the Zika virus.

“We are closely monitoring the situation through the CDCs [Centers for Disease Control] and have ongoing contact with the International Olympic Committee, the organizing officials in Rio,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in an interview with USA Today.

Along with the Zika virus, there have been concerns about water pollution. Just last summer, 13 out of the 40 members of the American rowing team got sick while in Brazil for the Olympic trials. The illness was reported to be due to the pollution of the lake that the rowers were training in. Olympic sailor Erik Heil also had to be treated for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a flesh-eating bacteria, shortly after he did an Olympic test event in Rio.

Rio is planning on using natural water venues for a multitude of aquatic Olympic events, but the question is whether or not they should be.

The Associated Press recently conducted a study that showed the water in Rio was just as contaminated far offshore as it was close to shore. The contamination is primarily due to raw human sewage flowing into these bodies of water.

“Everybody runs the risk of infection in these polluted waters,” Dr. Carlos Terra said in an interview with Business Insider. Dr. Terra is the head of a Rio-based association of doctors specializing in the research and treatment of liver diseases,

Carlos Nuzman, Rio Organizing Committee President, said that the water quality should be resolved by the time that the games begin but it is questionable if this goal is realistic.

Due to the construction of new venues for the games, the Brazilian government has evicted over 3,000 families in poverty from favelas, or shanty towns. The new government provided residences are away from the city and in a quiet barren part of Rio.

This new location makes it very difficult for the families to move around the city and find adequate transportation. The construction of new venues is going to be costly — it is projected to take $11.1 billion to host the summer Olympics. In the midst of a recession, this may prove difficult for Brazil.

With the country becoming more prominent in the global economy, Brazil would seem like a perfect fit to host the Olympics. However, the health risks that are currently present in Rio create an unsafe environment for the thousands of athletes that will be traveling there this summer.