The new beach volleyball arena for the Summer Olympics in Rio. / Photo by Joe Capozzoli
Copacabana Beach is where many of the water sports will take place. / Photo by Joe Capozzoli
If you’re old enough to remember the early days of “Saturday Night Live,” you surely remember skits John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman and Garrett Morris starred in as recurring characters: The Killer Bees. The actors were dressed in black-and-yellow bee costumes, wore floppy antennae, carried plastic guns and the jokes ensued.
It was hilarious then and is still funny today because it parodied the press in America. Killer bees were hyped by the media and frightened the nation at the time. Large swarms were supposedly flying up from South and Central America and these bees did not sting you once, they stung you a thousand times. Until you died.
Everyone panicked and was afraid to go outside that summer. Much like the summer when the film “Jaws” came out and no one went into the water. Almost 40 years have passed and while killer bee sting deaths have occurred, the threat never came close to the level or intensity leveled by the press.
Fast forward to late 2015: A new deadly insect has arrived, carrying a new form of terror and its name is the Zika virus. How’s that for scary?
So what is Zika and why is the press using Zika to scare everyone off from Rio during this year’s Summer Olympics?
First things first, Zika is not new, in fact, it has been around longer than those dreaded killer bees. Zika was isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in Uganda and a sample was provided to researchers by the famous virologist Jordi Casals-Ariet. Zika is available today to purchase on a website that sells research samples online (if you don't believe me, click here:
But unless you work for a lab that meets stringent CDC regulations, you won't be able to buy your own Zika.
Zika, unfortunately, is giving Rio a bad rap at a particularly critical time. The only thing the American press has to say about Rio is why you should not go there. This is unfair because Rio is a beautiful city with beautiful beaches, a fantastic shoreline, great restaurants and bars and, in just a few weeks, the best athletes from all over the world will be there competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Yes, the quality of the water is not what it is in San Diego, but it is not as bad as press reports suggest. Guanabara Bay, while definitely polluted and not a place to go swimming, is where the Olympic sailing competitions will take place. No swimming, or diving or things that require people to immerse themselves in the water will be in Guanabara Bay. Does this make it OK? Not really, but, once again, it is not as bad as is being reported.
The “Lagoa” or lake, where rowing and other “above water” sports are scheduled, is much cleaner than Guanabara, or, when related to San Diego, just slightly dirtier than Mission Bay in this writer’s opinion. There have been occasions, after a good rain and runoff, when I would say Mission Bay would in fact be even dirtier.
Ocean swimming and other water-related events are scheduled for Copacabana Beach. This is the Atlantic Ocean and the tides continually renew the water in the same way the Pacific does in San Diego. If it does get dirty, it will not stay dirty long.
The Zika virus is a disease that is mainly spread by mosquitoes. For most people infected with it, symptoms are very mild and the disease is not harmful.
There is one caveat, if you are a woman and are pregnant, it appears likely that Zika infection can result in birth defects, in particular, abnormally small heads (microcephaly) in newborns. With this in mind, if you were planning to attend the Summer Olympics in August, it is a good idea to skip this one. Pregnant women’s sex partners returning from Rio should practice safer sex or abstain from sex throughout the pregnancy.
But, if you’re not a pregnant woman, and you love being close to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, there is no better city in the world to be in come Aug. 5. The people of Rio know how to celebrate and a three-week celebration of world-class athletes and their feats of excellence is guaranteed!
For more about the Zika virus, the Olympics and travel to Rio, visit the World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/zika-health-advice-olympics/en/.