The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, are getting a lot of bad press.
A number of athletes have expressed concerns over traveling to the South American country, which is not only dealing with violent protests but is also at the heart of Zika outbreak — a virus that causes fetal microcephaly along with additional and severe fetal brain defects to fetuses.
U.S. cyclist Tejay van Garderen and golfers Fijian Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman have already announced they will skip the games because of the disease. Several other athletes from around the world have also backed out of the event citing different issues — including Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, who recently took himself out of consideration for the Olympic team because of an ankle and knee injuries.
Now, British Olympian Greg Rutherford has also raised similar concerns.
While the long-jumper is not opting out of the games, he has decided to freeze a sample of his sperm before leaving for Rio. His girlfriend Susie Verrill, with whom he has a toddler named Milo, said they want to have more kids in the future and are simply worried about the risks that Zika presents.
“The Zika news has caused no end of concern if we’re totally honest,” Verrill wrote in an article for Standard Issue. “We’re not ones to worry unnecessarily but after more than 100 medical experts stressed the Games should be moved to prevent the disease from spreading, this was a huge factor in us choosing to stay put.”
Neither Verrill nor Milo will accompany Rutherford to Rio.
“We’ve also made the decision to have Greg’s sperm frozen. We’d love to have more children and with research in its infancy, I wouldn’t want to put myself in a situation which could have been prevented,” she added. “Specialists still also don’t know the ins and outs of Zika, so even though it looks as though there’s no real issue should Milo get bitten, it’s just another thing we don’t want to chance.”
That’s not all.
It appears that journalists are also backing out of the event. Several NBC employees have reportedly refused to travel to Brazil to cover the games, including "Today" anchor Savannah Guthrie, who is pregnant.
“It’s very simple,” an NBC staffer told The New York Daily News. “I have a family. I have small children and for me, at least, the trip seems too risky. I might want to get pregnant soon.”
This comes a week after more than 100 health experts wrote an open letter to the International Olympic Committee, urging them to move or postpone the games.
“The fire is already burning but that is not a rationale not to do anything about the Olympics,” said one of signatories, professor Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa. “It is not the time now to throw more gasoline on to the fire.”
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has rejected the calls and said it would examine the risks of staging the Olympics in the Brazilian city.
The country’s sports minister, Leonardo Picciani, also insists that they are prepared for the Olympics.
"We hosted 43 test events in Rio with 7,000 athletes and we have not had any case of Zika or dengue. We had 4,300 cases in April, which fell to 700 in May and there will be another significant reduction in June or July, and in August it will be very close to zero,” he said. “All the mechanism of prevention and protection are guaranteed. I would say to any athlete, to any visitor planning on coming to Rio, you do not have to worry, Rio and Brazil have prepared for this moment.”