Rio 2016 Olympics Must Be Moved/Postponed: Zika Threat Too Big, 125 Scientists Tell WHO

One Canadian scientist said it before. Now 125 senior experts have joined forces in an open letter to the World Health Organisation: the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro should be postponed or moved because of the risk from the Zika virus. Scientists express concern that IOC/WHO partnership is a conflict of interest affecting WHO’s decision making

Want to read more? Our Basic subscription package allows you to access
to all articles barring specific content for Premium and Business
members. Select which service best suits you. Thank you for your
support of independent journalism and quality coverage of world-class swimming.

Log In Register

One Canadian scientist said it before. Now 125 senior experts have joined forces in an open letter to the World Health Organisation: the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro should be postponed or moved because of the risk from the Zika virus. Scientists express concern that IOC/WHO partnership is a conflict of interest affecting WHO’s decision making



At this point in time, there are only two alternatives available; go ahead with Rio in full congnisance of all potential risks or cancel. The latter comes with the liklihood of colossal breach of contract suits from all corners.

The window for switching the entire show to some other city, even London, closed in early 2014. Too many of the London venues have either been dismantled, reduced in capacity or are too far down the process of remodelling. Then there are the logistic issues with regards to athlete accomodation and re-jigging transport schedules.

There was another option that was available; that of “doling out” the various sports to whatever cities/countries that could potentially put on a major international competition at 9-12 months notice and labelling them as the 2016 Olympic tournament for that sport. Precedent = equestrian at 1956 Olympics held in Stockholm due to AUS quarantine restrictions.

However, even that window shut some months ago with the time frame now realistically too short to host such meets even later this year let alone what it would’ve meant for athletes.

Very much a case of there being no “good option” but rather would be the least worst one. No fair minded person would wish any ill fortune on Rio; both for competitors, locals, visitors & organisers.

However, should any of the main potential “negative scenarios” play out; the future of Olympic sports will be very much on the line given the existing doping/corruption issues in play in so many sports. The hinge factor that will most likely be overlooked is the most intangible; will the public care any longer ?


The games must go on, remember Munich and the massacre? Athens and the terrorist alarms? Not sure if giving the games to third world nations like Brazil is a smart idea in the first place.


The thing is that BRA is not strictly speaking a third world country; it crosses any number of boundaries. How would you classify GRE or any number of other European nations?

They’d already held an Olympics back in 1968 in a country with similar characteristics with Mexico/Mexico City. Mind you, the Olympics were a distinctly smaller operation to the behemoth we know today …… and therein lies a very significant percentage of the problem.

What cities/countries can realistically stage them …….. and how many of that number would want to ? A permanent site …… a nice concept but where ? Who’s going to pay for its construction ….. and then its upkeep ?

Plenty of questions with not many definitive answers.


Well, the suits in IOC knew very well what we would get by awarding the Olympics to Rio.

Thirld world countries vary. I’m pretty sure Brazil’s per capita GDP was higher than China’s at the time both countries awarded the Olympics. And yet China successfully hosted the Olympics. You just can’t label all thirld world countries the same.
You have to look at history, the characteristics of the government and citizens etc. South Korea was also not more advanced than Brazil when Seoul was awarded the Olympics.

if canceled due to force majeure (as quite possibly declared by UN), surely law suit not applicable?
I’m sure the force majeure condition is in every contract.


ASF, its almost certain that there will be “Force Majeure” clauses but unless they are clear cases of war, natural disaster or an ongoing state of emergency directly causing the breach of contract; they will most likely be facing proceedings to determine whether they have a FM case or not OR needing to make major financial settlements to avoid them. At this point, its only a potential scenario rather than a clear case.

As it is, this is merely a submission TO the WHO rather than a directive coming from the WHO. Even so, such a directive from the WHO has no binding power in itself but is merely advisory. Enforcement or adherance to such directives is in the hands of the individual member nations themselves.


We know that there WILL BE lawsuits even if the Olympics proceed when there are athletes and/or tourists attending the Olympics are suffering from Zika.

I think IOC should allow more than one countries to host the Olympics a la South Korea-Japan World Cup. The Olympics has become so much bigger that only a handful of countries and cities can possibly host it successfully: China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongxing), USA (LA, Chicago, NYC), Japan (Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka), South Korea (Seoul, Busan), Europe (London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow).


Dual hosting ?? May only work in cases such as certain Western European nations (low countries, Scandinavia) but that would have to wait until we see how the current European refugee/immigration situation plays out and who/how many countries choose to withdraw from Schengen.

No real issues with your proposed list. South Korea has the North Korean issue hanging over it. Chicago would probably be the best choice of the US cities. NYC is too wound up in its own self image for it to work and LA’s public transport infrastructure is nowhere near satisfactory.

AUS (Sydney/Melbourne) could most certainly be added to the list but there’s unlikely to be the public support in the forseeable future.

kevin roose

i keep hearing that the games being in August is a milder cooler month in Brazil and therefore mosquitoes habitat is minimal . Although your hear that the most of the water sports will have to deal with poluted water .
Why wasnt this a issue when Brazil hosted the world cup or it didnt seem to be ?


There are inherently many differences between the Olympics and the world cup:

1. Olympics events are held and concentrated in one city, World Cup matches are spread to 12 cities, and even in 2002 were hosted in two countries.

2.Olympics events are compacted and concentrated within 2 weeks which means there are events every single day, morning afternoon and night ; while 2014 world Cup were held in 32 days and not every day there were matches. cup matches were held in one type of venue: football stadium, one stadium per city; while Olympics events are held in various venues throughout one city, many are exposed to elements.


ASF, the football tournaments for both men & women are spread over different BRA cities (including some of the venues used during last WCup and at least one in one of the peak Zika areas).

This is standard for Olympic football tournaments where the host city may not always have 4-5 stadiums of 40k capacity. It may often be the case (although not with Rio) that sailing events may be held at venues long distances from the host city.

Sydney was probably the most compact Games in recent memory with only football preliminaries being the only sport outside the Sydney metropolitan area. London was quite compact with sailing being the only non-football event outside Greater London/Home Counties.


I forgot that the men and women football matches in the Olympics are also held in various cities.

Olympics is basically more complex to organize than the World Cup as it involves tens of sporting federations and the budget of only one city. Unless it’s held in large supermodern city like Tokyo or London, the hosting city invariably has to build massive infrastructures improvement which create its own massive problems. While world cup hosting cities do not need to do such things since the whole thing is not concentrated in one city. Also, in the case of Brazil, as football is the nation’s culture, they are already accustomed to host large international football tournaments.


Most of the football will be held in coastal cities in the south of BRA but 2 host cities are in the north (Salvador & Manaus) and two being in the interior of the country (Brasilia & Manaus) with the later probably being the riskiest on the Zika front being in the Amazon region.

The other key issue that we haven’t mentioned is the security one ……. and one of the key reasons why cities/nations are loath to bid.


Another issue that makes this Rio Olympics is more complicated than 2014 world cup: the rise of Zika.

In 2014, even if there may have been infections, Zika has not reached endemic levels as it does now. I don’t think we’ve heard of Zika in summer 2014.


Commonwombat, one might assume that the more tropical areas in the Amazon region pose the greatest risk. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. The largest impacted areas of Brazil remain around the original epicentre in the far Northeast around Recife and Natal. According to the NY Times and others sources that’s where a large portion of the confirmed Microcephaly cases have been documented. Manuas and the Amazon region is one of the relatively less impacted areas so far it seems.

kevin roose

Intersting comments made by high ranking officials in the Sailing Confederation. After spending 2 days in Rio they made the comments that the quality of water in Guanabura Bay had noticeably improved since there last visit in March .We have spoken to environmentalists and been given quality water data and the trend line is encouraging.
Good news for the sport of sailing at the olympics , i wonder how the regetta is going for rowing/kayaking ?

Leave a comment

Post a comment with your SwimVortex Account. Don't have a SwimVortex Account, Sign Up?

(*) Fields are required!