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  • Rio Leaders Say Zika 'No Risk', Offer Velodrome Assurances


    (ATR) Olympic organizers downplayed the health risk of Zika, presenting the IOC’s ruling board with information designed to allay fears about the virus.
    Rio 2016 leaders Carlos Nuzman and Mario Andrada (ATR)

    Organizing committee chief Carlos Nuzman and director of communications Mario Andrada were in Lausanne to give their final report to the executive board before the Aug. 5-21 Games.

    The World Health Organization last week issued advice about Zika virus and the Olympics amid serious concerns voiced by a number of athletes set to compete at the Games. The WHO said “there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the Games” but urged people traveling to Brazil to follow public health guidelines and advised pregnant women not to travel to Rio.

    Nuzman told a press conference that he had shown a graphic prepared by the Brazilian ministry of health to the IOC. It shows how the rate of infection “drops dramatically” from June to September, Andrada said. To “virtually zero”in August.

    (Click to expand)

    He said Rio 2016 would ramp up its information campaign on Zika which was “very important” to better explain to athletes and visitors to Brazil communications “there is not a public health risk with Zika”.

    Nuzman noted that various “legends and heroes of sport”, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Neymar had been helping to show the world that Zika shouldn’t be a significant concern in Brazil’s winter months.

    “Several icons have supported the fact that they trust they can go to Rio in safety. Rafael Nadal was very vocal in saying people are going to bars, going out and going to the beaches and no-one seems to be affected,” Andrada said.

    Andrada sought to further calm fears about the Zika virus by saying that there were “zero cases” of anyone contracting the virus in 44 test events involving 7,000 athletes and 8,000 volunteers.

    Venue Problems

    Rio 2016 velodrome (Getty Images)
    Nuzman said the delay-hit velodrome was one of the main points of Rio’s presentation to the IOC.

    Mayor Eduardo Paes, via video conference, offered assurances that it would be completed by the end of June “in condition for the athletes to train in there”, Nuzman told reporters. The mayor’s guarantees come despite last week’s change in the construction company finishing the project.

    The Rio 2016 chief said updates on the equestrian and tennis venues were also given to IOC leaders, stressing that the delays concerned “much more small details… on the way for the next weeks”.

    The first 30 days of the torch relay, he added, had been an “enormous success in Brazil, much bigger and more important than we expected”.

    Sluggish Ticket Sales

    While Rio 2016 officials maintained that they were in a “good position” on selling tickets, they still have plenty to shift.

    A total of 67 percent – 4 million – of Olympic tickets have been sold, leaving 2 million more to sell in two months. But only 24 percent of Paralympic tickets are sold, Andrada confirmed, adding that this figure would rise once the Olympic sales campaign concluded.

    Nuzman told reporters there was “no question” from the IOC board on Brazil’s political and economic crisis. He insisted that president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, possibly days before the Olympics open, would not impact the Games.

    “During the seven years we are working organizing the Games, happened a lot of things. We have full support and nothing interferes in our organisation.”

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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