Via The Globe and Mail, a column by sportswriter Cathal Kelly: Cancelling the Rio Olympics over Zika seems unlikely – for now. Excerpt:
Flu, cholera and dysentery kill millions of people every year, while Zika has perhaps killed a handful. On its face, it seems less fraught (which may explain Brazil’s initially blasé attitude to the problem). Athletes and other professionals are willing to take a chance, even a considerable one, in order to do their jobs.
But Zika is more unnerving since there is the possibility that, in contracting it, you are taking a risk on behalf of someone else – your child. That’s an entirely separate moral formulation. Most people will not do that.
Almost every female competitor in Rio is in the most at-risk cohort – women of procreative age. There have been at least two cases where it’s believed men have infected their sexual partners with Zika.
You can’t hold an Olympics without women, or without men who have wives or girlfriends.
If a critical mass of those people (which is to say, just about all people) decide to pass on Rio, it will collapse. How many absentees would that worst-case scenario require? Twenty per cent of the total? Thirty? It’s probably less than you think. All it may take is a few high-profile competitors to convince many more not to bother.
This is not to say Rio 2016 is doomed. We could hear in a week or a month that the virus has been contained, that infection rates are dipping or that some of the early fears about effects are unfounded. One decisive news conference could turn this the other way. And the athletes may collectively decide they don’t care about the risks, and that the chance at glory is too great to pass up.
But at the moment, it’s easier to see it getting worse. Once told we are right to be cautious – which the USOC has just done – most of us will be.
Athletes also know that if they are supported by their governing bodies, they have the power to shape events. What if they all decide they’d prefer to delay the Olympics, or see it held in a different country?
Given the right pressures and spokespeople, that movement could gather a great deal of momentum. For those invested in a Brazilian Games, there is no way to rebut it without seeming self-serving.
A move to cancel the Olympics would require some precipitating event – an unequivocal warning from a body such as the World Health Organization, or a major country announcing its intention to avoid the Games. Then things could go sideways in a hurry.
It remains unlikely for now. But “for now” has become a rapidly moving target.