This week 20 years ago, Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic torch to commence the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. It was one of the greatest Olympic moments and arguably the most memorable lighting to begin the games. Every four years the summer Olympics come and go. And every four years there is controversy surrounding the games. This year in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, the threat of the Zika virus takes precedence. This mosquito virus has been known to cause birth defects. However, it seems that many are using it as a valid and invalid excuse not to represent their country for the Olympics.
Golf is making a comeback to the Olympics after a 112 year hiatus. It will consist of a 72-hole individual stroke play tournament. If there is a tie for any of the top three positions, then a three-hole playoff will determine the winners. This is exactly how a regular tournament is played, minus the top three positions for a medal of course. There is no monetary value for winning, just the medals and country pride. Golf is all about winning major tournaments and PGA tournaments. It’s about getting sponsorships and making enough money to stay on tour year after year. Winning the Ryder Cup or the President’s Cup is more esteemed than winning an Olympic medal. Can you begin to see why many of the players are citing the Zika virus as a scapegoat for not playing? Granted, you do have young golfers and family men who don’t want to risk birth defects. The world’s number one golfer, 28 year old Jason Day of Australia, has decided not participate in the Olympics. He said “the reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife’s future pregnancies and to future members of our family. While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family. I will not place them at risk.” Rory McIlroy of Ireland is 27 years old and recently engaged. He stated that “my health and my family’s health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.” Vijay Singh is 53 and from Fiji. He stated, “I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know. I feel bad, I wanted to play and finally decided against it. It’s in the middle of the Tour over here and I’m trying to figure out my game.” Really, Vijay?! He hasn’t been relevant or number one in the world of golf since 2005.
It’s not just the Zika virus that is a concern for Olympic travelers. Economic turmoil and pollution are also raising eyebrows for the games that will begin in two weeks. The latter two mentioned issues were the same leading up to the 2014 World Cup of soccer. I was an eye witness to the non-issues during my week there. What was being reported was far different than what was actually going on. Expect the same thing from August 5th – 21st. Once the games start, the only thing that will matter is the athletes who worked hard to make it to Rio.