Abby Johnston says much of the possible negative aspects here have been too sensationalized, particularly the risk of Zika. In addition to being a silver medal-winning diver, Johnston is a medical student at Duke who thoroughly researched Zika before the Olympics. She says she learned that the threat of getting the virus is very, very slim. She says she hasn’t seen any mosquitoes (it is Brazil’s winter).
“I’m constantly spraying myself just to be proactive,” she said. “But we have Zika in the U.S. now, too.”
There are significant water bacteria issues in Rio, but sculler Gevvie Stone said in a U.S. Rowing release that the cleanliness of the water has been above expectations. And there also are serious issues with the water in Flint, Michigan, home of boxer Claressa Shields. So the 2012 gold medalist isn’t worried here.
“I never had to deal with Zika in Flint but just with the water and everything, I kind of block it out,” Shields said, adding she, too, thinks the media has focused too much on the negative. “The athletes who decided not to come to Rio because of the Zika virus definitely made a big mistake. It’s not that big of a deal. The mosquito spray works perfectly fine. I haven’t been bitten yet, and I’ve been here three weeks.
“The athletes who decided not to come to Rio because of the Zika virus definitely made a big mistake. It’s not that big of a deal. The mosquito spray works perfectly fine. I haven’t been bitten yet, and I’ve been here three weeks.”
“I really feel bad for the athletes who pulled out just because of hearing about the Zika virus and being afraid of it.”
While there were complaints from the Australian team about the Olympic village, the U.S. athletes were enthusiastic about the accommodations.
“When I walked into the village, I was like, ‘Am I in London? Am I in Beijing?’ ” Boudia said. “As far as the buildings are concerned, it seems the exact same. The village is gorgeous. … As far as everything else, it’s another Games but a different location.”
There were concerns about terrorist attacks at Athens in 2004 and London in 2012 as well, but nothing happened. That is the hope here.
“I feel very secure,” Johnston said. “We have this national security or police force walking around with machine guns, so you can’t really feel any safer than when you have that around you. And we have security outside our buildings, with metal detectors coming inside the village.
“To me it feels very similar to London, and I felt safe there.”
Apart from health and safety issues, doping by athletes also has been a frequently covered story, particularly with more than a hundred Russian athletes being banned, including the country’s track and field team.