Lee Igel, clinical associate professor at the New York University Tisch Institute and co-director of NYU Sports and Society, says Yes.
The Rio Olympics should be postponed or moved, but not called off entirely. Knowing what we already know about the spread and effects of the strain of Zika virus currently found in Brazil, on top of the turmoil in the economy, governance, and society there, makes for enough of a public health issue even without the arrival of a sports mega-event like the Games. Why put further stress on human resources, financial resources, and infrastructure, security, and healthcare systems that are already beyond push points? That more and more top-flight athletes, such as Greg Rutherford, are showing concern for their health and that of their families so close to the opening ceremonies ought to speak volumes. They have access to some of the best healthcare the world has to offer. And yet even they are questioning whether it makes sense to carry on as planned with the Games they have spent years of sweat, time, and money preparing to participate in.
Derek Gatherer, a lecturer in biomedical and life sciences at Lancaster University, says No.
There is no need to cancel or postpone the Rio Olympics because of Zika virus. For some, the risk posed by Zika is high – pregnant women and those planning pregnancy should probably stay away. For the remainder, precautions such as insect repellent, air conditioning, and safe sex practices will reduce the number of consequent infections. We cannot guarantee that the Olympics will be “safe”, with or without Zika. Brazil is a tropical country and people will also return with dengue, chikungunya, malaria and HIV (which is three times more prevalent in Brazil than here), and nobody proposes any of those diseases as reasons to cancel the Games. Even without the Olympics, several million people come and go from Brazil to the rest of the world every year. Tropical diseases will spread with those travellers in any case, and Zika is one of them. The sensible approach involves individual risk assessment and precautionary personal behaviour. Cancellation will achieve nothing.