Zika outbreak threatens Olympic Games

Isaac Pheko
Wednesday, 24 February 2016
CONTAGION…BNOC CEO Tuelo Serufho is wary of the Zika virus. CONTAGION…BNOC CEO Tuelo Serufho is wary of the Zika virus.

The Botswana Olympic Committee (BNOC) is yet to take a stand on whether it will be sending athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil where an outbreak of the Zika Virus is causing havoc.

The Zika virus that is spread through blood transfusion and sexual contact is currently ravishing South American countries. The BNOC is planning to send several sporting codes to the high profile games scheduled for later this year in August. These codes include athletics, boxing, Judo and swimming. In an interview this week, BNOC Chief Executive Officer Tuelo Serufho said they are currently monitoring the situation with international health and sports authorities.

“In terms of team preparation for the Olympic Games we are going ahead as planned,” Serufho said this week. He added that they were dealing with the matter on three levels that include the local level where they are engaging the Ministry of Health (MoH). However, Serufho said it was too early for the MoH to give any concrete advice on the matter. “The Zika outbreak is still a new matter the World Health Organisation and Brazil are still attending to it, we do not know if it will get   worse or improve. They (WHO) will be updating us on a regular basis,” he said. 

On an international level Serufho said the BNOC was constantly in touch with the Brazilian Olympic Committee on the equipment that was needed to protect the athletes once in Brazil such a mosquito nets where athletes will be staying as well as public places. In addition, the BNOC boss said countries in general were adopting a position in which it is up to the athletes to compete at Rio or not.

“They will not be forced to go this is a position that was first taken by both Australia and the United States.” So far, three track athletes have qualified for the Olympics including Isaac Makwala and Nijel Amos. Moreover, both Judo and boxing are currently competing at qualifier games while the women’s volleyball team has failed to qualify despite a stellar performance at Yaounde, Cameroon.

Thus far, long and middle distance specialist Kenya have threatened to pull out of the Olympic Games due to Zika outbreak while the United States Olympic Committee has advised staff and athletes not to attend the games if they are in doubt.

In five months Rio will be expecting to host 16000 athletes and 600 000 visitors from all over the globe. There is currently no official cure for Zika.

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