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Health Concerns at the Rio Olympics

Jul 7, 2016
Health Concerns at the Rio Olympics
Image courtesy of San Francisco Examiner


If you are considering visiting Rio de Janeiro to be a spectator of the 2016 Olympic Games, you might want to think again if you value your health.


Every Olympic year, the host city has to deal with a slew of difficult logistical issues that pose societal, budgetary, and policy problems. Yet, these Summer Olympics in Rio pose a larger health threat and more questions about how to keep athletes and spectators safe than any games in recent memory.

Water Contamination Issues

One of the most glaring problems that Olympic athletes will face in Rio is the incomprehensible level of contamination in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, home to the rowing and canoeing events. This lagoon is so contaminated that athletes have reported seeing everything from plastic bags, to couches, to washing machines, to dead fish floating by as they scoped out the course. A recent investigation revealed that accidentally ingesting as little as three teaspoons of the lagoon water is enough to give yourself a 99% chance of contracting a virus.


One Olympic athlete from Germany has already contracted MRSA from the lagoon water, just by completing one test run. The culprit for much of the contamination? Raw sewage, which is horrifyingly prevalent in all parts of the lagoon and the shore areas.

Zika Virus

Of course, the health concern garnering the most international media attention is the spread of the Zika virus in Rio. The Zika virusĀ has been declared by the World Health Organization to be a public emergency. It’s easy to contract, and can lead to devastating infections in pregnant women resulting in microcephaly and stillbirth. A team of academic experts — over 200 of them — came together to sign a letter urging the Olympic committee to change locations for this year’s Games because of the Zika concerns alone.


When you combine the questions about security competence, contamination, crime levels, and the Zika virus, the risks of traveling to Rio to take in the Olympics this year appear to outweigh the benefits. If you are concerned about your health, andĀ especially if you are pregnant, you should seriously think twice about traveling to Brazil this summer… no matter how much of an Olympics fan you may be.