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Is the Zika threat enough to delay or end Olympic dreams?




<em>Aedes aegypti</em> mosquito photographed through a microscope.
Aedes aegypti mosquito photographed through a microscope.
Felipe Dana/AP

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are less than three months away.

That means it's about time to finalize travel plans -- for spectators, journalists, officials and others who support the games.

Plus, the athletes themselves. For many of the major events, like swimming, track & field and gymnastics, the finals to decide the US team will be held in the next few weeks.

There's a lot to consider this year, with the threat of Zika, political instability, even water quality.

A Martinez talked about this with Steve Mason, co-host of "Mason & Ireland" who will be covering the Olympics for NBC Radio this summer.

Interview highlights

On who's announced that they will be skipping the games:

"From what we can tell, people like Pau Gasol have wavered on whether they will go. He would play for the Spanish basketball team. Savannah Guthrie, an anchor at NBC who is pregnant, has elected not to go. And we've gotten a pretty strong warning that if you are a woman who is either pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, it's probably not a good idea to go. There was one report of a British athlete who has actually frozen his sperm because it will be then safe for him to have a child later on with his wife, so especially when it comes to people who are trying to get pregnant or who are pregnant, [there's a] pretty stern warning not to go.

On what's at stake for athletes if they don't go:

"If you think about it, Pau Gasol has been to the Olympics a number of times, so he's had this experience. At the same time, if you're somebody who's been training for a decade trying to get ready for these games, I don't think that the threat of the Zika virus is going to keep you away. For a lot of these athletes, this is their one and only chance to participate in the Olympics and to compete for a gold medal, I don't think the Zika virus is going to keep them away from that."

On taking steps to avoid the virus:

"There are steps that all of us are going to be taking that are unusual to try to be safe while we're there. I think the average athlete is probably going to wear long pants and long sleeves at all times despite the heat down there. That's been recommended. There's going to be an unbelievable number of mosquito repellant containers everywhere you go. Athletes and all of us are going to be washing our clothes in mosquito repellant before we actually go to Rio. There are certain hours of the day...that are the peak times when m are looking to bite, so you'll see a lot of people ... Athletes are going to have the sharpest and most crisp intel to avoid the virus. 

On making the decision to go:

"This will be my seventh Olympics, it is my absolute favorite thing to cover and to do in sports hist, there was really nothing. I would have gone... it's a lifetime dream of mine. I'm also a single guy, not planning to have kids, I'm in my 50s, if I were to get Zika, I'd go down for two weeks but I don't have to worry about potentially passing that on to a child on some point...

On calls to postpone or cancel or move the Olympics.

It would be possible but it would be unprecedented. Especially because of the economic strife and the amount of money that Brazil has invested in these games, it would have been a disaster for that country to lose the games or delay those games. So I don't think it was ever a realistic option to move the games. I don't think there was any chance it was ever going to happen.



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