Olympians unfazed by reports of turmoil in Brazil ahead of Summer Games – Metro US

Olympians unfazed by reports of turmoil in Brazil ahead of Summer Games

Selected in 2009 as the first South American country to host the Olympics, Brazil faces huge hurdles on the eve of the Rio Games this summer.

There’s the mosquito-borne Zika virus epidemic, prompting some health officials to call for postponing or relocating the Games, lest it infect athletes who could spread it around the world. The virus has been linked to a fatal brain defect in babies born to infected mothers.

Then there’s the political crisis, the economic crisis and the environmental crisis. Crime is soaring, and, on Friday, the governor of Rio declared a “state of calamity,” sayng the state’s government is bankrupt and can’t meet its financial obligations for the Games.

Well, you get the picture. All isn’t well with less than two months to go until 10,500 athletes from 200 countries and a half-million spectators descend on Rio and the Olympic cauldron is lit Aug. 5.

One of those athletes is Philadelphian Glenn Ochal, 30, who’s on the eight-man rowing team, won a bronze medal in London in 2012 and sees an opportunity for gold this year. Having rowed all over the world, he is not intimidated by the reports of garbage and sewage in the bay where sailing and windsurfing competitions will be held.

“A few American rowers became ill, but none ill enough not to compete,” he said of an incident last year when 15 Amerians got sick after a rowing championship on a Rio lagoon. “You watch what you eat and drink, keep yourself clean.”

The Zika virus also doesn’t overly concern him.

“We have a medical staff,” he said. “We’ve been taking standard travel shots. My wife and I aren’t planning on having kids soon, so I’m OK with Zika. We’ll be smart. We’re in the Olympic Village.”

U.S. women’s indoor volleyball team member Megan Hodge Easy, 27, of Boston, has a silver medal from London and is confident going into Rio. However, the Zika epidemic has Easy and her husband, Omar, wondering whether to bring their 19-month-old son to Brazil.

Otherwise, she is undaunted by the turmoil there.

“As an athlete traveling the world, you learn to adjust and adapt,” she said. “We’re not planning on getting pregnant anytime soon, so hopefully Zika won’t be an issue. We’re an indoor sport.”

The Brazilian women won volleyball gold in 2008 and 2012, raising the stakes for Easy and her teammates. “We’re there to get a job done,” she said.

Tina Charles, 27, of Queens, who played on the 2012 gold medal women’s basketball team, is more concerned with winning games with the WNBA’s New York Liberty than Zika.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” Charles said. “I’m sure USA Basketball will take the best precautions.”

Another American athlete, cyclist Tejay van Garderen, who has a baby on the way this fall, has decided not to compete because of Zika. But it can’t stop some in their quest for Olympic glory. “It’s something as a child you’ve always dreamed of,” Charles said.