Rio 2016 Diary: What happened to Zika?

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So, what happened to all the Zika hype?

As we head towards the end of these Olympic Games, suddenly things have gone strangely quiet on the mosquito front. Funnily enough just like the mosquitoes in Rio, which don’t seem to make the usual annoying high-pitched whine that they do in other parts of the world.

Much was made of the dreaded Zika virus in the build-up to these Games, with high-profile athletes such as golfers Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, US basketball players and tennis stars like Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic all citing Zika fears for not travelling to Brazil. One Canadian law professor even wrote in the Harvard Public Health review that the Olympics should be moved or delayed because of the risk. But the World Health Organisation clearly know their stuff and declared it safe.

I have to smile. When I arrived in Rio almost three weeks ago, we weren’t even 10 metres past the customs desks at the airport when some Japanese members of the media whipped out their anti-mozzie products and started applying them with vigour.












Yes, of course you try to take precautions. I did too (not that the mozzies here seem too perturbed by my insect repellents), but the truth is that the Zika virus has been found across most of South America, the Caribbean, up into Mexico and now also Miami, Florida. And in Brazil, the epicentre of the outbreak is far from Rio in the north eastern part of the country. If you heeded all the travel warnings in the world, you wouldn’t leave your front door.


But I’m used to hype – I’m South African after all and had a good giggle at all the negative build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in my own country. If all those reports were to be believed, tourists were going to be charged by rhinos in the streets, footballers were to be bitten by snakes at their training venues and we were all going to be sitting in half-built stadiums. None of it happened, of course.



So I know not to take these horror stories too seriously. Which is a good thing since I am currently covered in mozzie bites.



While some didn’t find it too funny, I have to admit I enjoyed the fastest man on the planet’s response to questions on Zika fears a few months before the start of the Games. Usain Bolt joked that he was too quick for the mozzies to catch him.


He certainly was Friday night as the sprinting legend successfully completed his historic triple treble, winning the third of his gold medals here in Rio along with his Jamaican 4x100m relay teammates – Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade – much to the delight of the adoring crowd in the Olympic stadium.


That’s three out of three at three consecutive Olympics. It’s surely impossible that anyone will get close to that record any time soon.




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