Image courtesy of USA Today
Written by Eugene Jerome DeCosse
Every four years, over one hundred nations come together at the Olympics to contest a plethora of athletic events. Throughout every Olympics there are memorable moments of triumph, controversy, and excitement. These moments occur everywhere; from the pool, to the track, and the ocean. However, there have also been problems regarding the Rio Olympics; the venue problems, sewage problems, and the dangerous Zika virus, all pose a serious threat to the viability and safety of the Olympics this summer. That being said, here are some things to look out for at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The first thing to look for at the Rio Olympics are the structural issues. There have been various cuts towards the Rio budget. The Rio Organizers are looking to cut about five hundred million dollars to balance the Olympic budget. At one point the organizers were even considering cutting free air conditioning at the athletes village. Instead, the organizers have decided to cut thousands of seats at venues including the aquatic center and sailing races (Press). There have also been numerous problems with the stadium set to host the track and field events. The stadium does not even have a completed track and has lost water and power numerous times over leasing disagreements (Grenoble). With the aforementioned structural problems, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the quality of the venues at the games.
Another important issue regarding venues is Rio De Janeiro’s sewage and water problem. Open water events from open water swimming to sailing will be using the sewage infested waters in and around Rio. In the test events leading up to the games, there have been numerous accounts of athletes getting infected and sick after using these venues. The concentration of viral agents at some of the venues has been reported to be 1.7 million times what is considered dangerous in the US or Europe (Brooks). With these dangers at the open water events, there is a chance that these events will be held outside of Brazil or cancelled.
The Zika Virus
The latest and largest problem is the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil, where over a million cases have been reported. The symptoms are not that serious for most of those infected; eighty percent of victims show no symptoms, but those who do mainly have headaches, rashes, and muscle pains. Pregnant women affected by the virus; however, have been giving birth to babies with microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small brains and concomitant brain damage. This poses a very serious problem to the thousands of female athletes and tourists, who may be pregnant or of childbearing age. As of now no treatment is available and the first vaccine will take a few years to be developed (Pulliam-Moore). In response to these dangers, the Kenyan Olympics Committee has openly considered withdrawing its athletes from the Olympics and famous athletes like American women’s soccer team goalkeeper, Hope Solo, have voiced concern about the dilemma (Alexander).
Out of more than ten thousand athletes that will be participating in the Olympics, many will be there for the first time and looking to make an impression. Here are some first time athletes to watch out for in Rio.
Si Yajie will be going into the Olympics young enough to be a senior at high school. However, as young as Si Yajie is, she is anything but inexperienced. Si Yajie, at the young age of eighteen, has already won gold medals at the diving world championships in both synchronized and individual ten meter platform diving (Neidigh). China has always brought a strong diving contingent and Si Yajie may be the star of their Rio De Janeiro squad.
Simone Biles is another young athlete with a championship pedigree in gymnastics. With ten gold medals at the age of eighteen, Biles is already the most bemedalled female athlete in world gymnastics championship history, eclipsing legends like Larisa Latynina and Nadia Comaneci. Simone Biles has also dethroned the American hero from the London Olympics, Gabby Douglas, as the reigning all around world champion going into the Olympics (Macur). Simone Biles will be leading an American women’s gymnastics team looking to repeat their success from the London games, where they won three of six possible gold medals in women’s artistic gymnastics (Stranahan).
Another young athlete to look out for is the Colombina sprint cycling sensation, Fernando Gaviria. Gaviria has competed in the Tour de France, and has also won a gold medal in Omnium at the 2015 world track cycling world championships (News.com). The omnium is an all around event that combines six different cycling events and determines a winner from point total (“Omnium”). Fernando Gaviria should be able to provide a strong Colombian presence in both the road and track cycling at the Rio Olympics.
For all the young athletes trying to make an impression, there are defending champions looking to defend their titles. Although many veterans have declined in the four years since London, here are some veterans that look strong going into the Rio Olympics.
Usain Bolt is one of the most famous athletes of this generation and is synonymous with track sprinting. Bolt has won both the 100m and 200m titles along with the 400m relay at the last two games. Bolt will be looking to become the first athlete ever to three peat in both the 100m and 200m sprints. Although there have been concerns about his advanced age, 29, Bolt has been looking in good form lately. Bolt fended off fellow veteran, Justin Gatlin, to win all three of the aforementioned titles at the 2015 world championships in track (Warsinskey). With Bolt’s experience and continued success, he is looking to be the favorite in the sprint track events.
Michael Phelps is another legendary Olympic athlete who will be returning for his last go around at the Olympic stage. Phelps already has the most medals in Olympic history and double the number of Golds of any other olympian. Although Phelps retired following a disappointing London Olympics, he came back in 2014 and has been doing well since. He finished last year ranked first in the world in three events (200 Individual Medley, 100 Butterfly, 200 Butterfly)(Layden). Rio will give Phelps a chance to redeem his disappointing London results and to retire on top.
Saori Yoshida, a Japanese wrestler, is looking to four peat in freestyle wrestling. Yoshida has maintained one of the longest competitive stretches in sports history with three consecutive Olympic titles and world championship wins in such competition since 2002 (Olympics). Furthermore the advent of additional weight classes in the Olympics this year should sparse out talent and help Yoshida four-peat.
The Olympic committee is constantly in the process of adding and cutting events. This year rugby sevens and golf will be added; both are back in the Olympics after lengthy hiatuses: Golf since 1904 and Rugby since 1924.
Golf is somewhat of a controversial entry at the Olympics, both the qualification process and the Olympics place in the normal golf schedule has been disputed. The golf competition will have the top thirty ranked golfers of both genders competing. However each nation is limited to four golfers. This will present a problem for countries like the USA with more than five golfers in the top fifteen (Tour and News). Plenty of medal contenders will not even be able to compete because of this qualification rule. Additionally, golfers will have a packed schedule over the summer months with major competitions both before and after the Olympics. World ranked number two golfer McilRoy has commented that although he will attend Olympic competition his major focus and goal would be to win the Majors (Reuters).
Rugby will be making its return in the sevens format as opposed to the union format used before its hiatus at the Olympic level. Unlike rugby union with fifteen players, sevens features seven players and provides more space and consequently a faster moving game. Fiji,South Africa, and New Zealand stand atop the world sevens rankings. The USA will be trying to defend their title from the 1924 games (Stoney).
Every four years the Olympics always provide great excitement and controversy. This year with the addition of new sports, big name athletes like Bolt and Phelps, and a bunch of structural and safety issues: the Olympics will not be short of excitement and controversy. Make sure to watch the Olympics and look out for the aforementioned topics.
Alexander, Harriet. “Zika Fears Force US Goalkeeper to Consider Olympic Games Boycott as Kenya Says They May Not Attend.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/zika/12150345/Zika-fears-force-US-goalkeeper-to-consider-Olympic-boycott-as-Kenya-says-they-may-not-attend.html>.
Brooks, Brad. “AP Test: Rio Olympic Water Badly Polluted, Even Far Offshore.” Bigstory.ap. Associated Press, 2 Dec. 2015. Web. <http://bigstory.ap.org/article/cabd453515244bf2b1063e15f6b680c9/ap-test-rio-olympic-water-badly-polluted-even-far-offshore>.
Grenoble, Ryan. “Rio Olympic Stadium Has Power, Water Cut Over Unpaid Bills.” Huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post Sports, 5 Jan. 2016. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rio-olympic-stadium-loses-power-water-bills_us_568bf447e4b06fa68883ada8>.
Layden, Tim. “The Rehabilitation of Michael Phelps.” After Rehabilitation, the Best of Michael Phelps May Lie Ahead. Sports Illustrated, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.si.com/olympics/2015/11/09/michael-phelps-rehabilitation-rio-2016>.
Macur, Juliet. “For World’s Top Gymnast, a Body in Motion and a Mind at Rest.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/sports/olympics/simone-biles-gymnast-rio-olympics.html?_r=0>.
Neidigh, Lauren. “Chinese Divers Make History; Wu Minxia Claims 8th World Title (Video).” SwimSwam. SwimSwam, 25 July 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <https://swimswam.com/chinese-divers-make-history-wu-minxia-claims-8th-world-title/>.
News.com, Velo. “Fernando Gaviria Wins Men’s Omnium at 2015 Track Worlds – VeloNews.com.” VeloNewscom. Velo News, 21 Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/news/fernando-gaviria-wins-mens-omnium-2015-track-worlds_361486>.
Olympics. “Saori Yoshida, Japan’s Unbeaten Warrior.” Olympics.org. Olympics, 3 June 2015. Web. <http://www.olympic.org/news/saori-yoshida-japan-s-unbeaten-warrior/243982>.
“Omnium.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Mar. 2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/cycling/get_involved/7303468.stm>.
Press, Associated. “2016 Olympics Facing Deep Cuts but Organisers Insist ‘Rio Will Be Magic'” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jan/15/2016-olympics-rio-games-cuts>.
Pulliam-Moore, Charles. “Microcephaly, and the Disorder’s Possible Relationship to the Zika Virus, Explained.” Fusion.net. Fusion, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://fusion.net/story/263807/microcephaly-explained/>.
Reuters. “Golf-McIlroy Says Majors More Important than Olympic Gold.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo Sports, 20 Jan. 2016. Web. <http://sports.yahoo.com/news/golf-mcilroy-says-majors-more-important-olympic-gold-160009975–golf.html>.
Stoney, Emma. “U.S. Rugby Sevens Team Emerges as Olympic Contender.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/16/sports/rugby/us-rugby-sevens-rio-olympics.html>.
Stranahan, Elizabeth. “Olympic Rewind: Fierce Five Win Gold.” FloGymnastics. FloSports, 31 July 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.flogymnastics.com/article/36792-olympic-rewind-fierce-five-win-gold>.
Tour and News. “Rules for Golf Qualifying in the 2016 Olympic Games: U.S. Will Only Get Four Players No Matter How Many in Top 15.” Golf.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/2016-olympic-games-golf-qualifying-rules-announced>.
Warsinskey, Tim. “Usain Bolt’s 17 Gold Medals in Olympics, World Championships by Event, times (photos, Videos).” Cleveland.com. N.p., 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. <http://www.cleveland.com/olympics/index.ssf/2015/08/usain_bolts_17_gold_medals_in.html>.