Readers Roundtable: Should the IOC Move or Postpone the Olympics?

Just what are we jumping into here? (img via davidkn1/flickr)
Just what are we jumping into here? (img via davidkn1/flickr)

It takes a lot of information to fill a 24 hour news cycle, so I admit, when I saw headlines calling for the Olympics to be moved or postponed, my first thought was, No way is that even a thing. I mean, at this point the wheels are so deep in motion that it would take a miracle bigger than Moses parting the Red Sea to move such a huge event, right? After all, it’s not just an issue for the IOC, it’s also an issue involving Brazilian government, labor, public transportation, infrastructure, supplies, not to mention travel plans of over half a million people including state officials and diplomats, and of course the training schedules of all the athletes. Moving the Olympics isn’t like moving a Saturday night ball game.

Then last week, the Washington Post published an open letter to the director-general of the World Health Organization, signed by 150 public health experts, asking her to “call for the Rio 2016 Games to be postponed and/or moved to another location—but not cancelled—in the name of public health.”


The WHO says the Olympics aren’t going to significantly add to the worldwide Zika threat, but what about everything else? This letter comes alongside reports that athletes who compete in open water will basically be swimming in sewage, plus Dilma Roussef’s impeachment shining international light on Brazil’s corruption issues, plus economic problems all over Latin America. Signs all around seem to be pointing in the same direction.

Or are they? Are these just the normal problems of an emerging power in a struggling global economy?

What do you think? Is the news media blowing all this stuff out of proportion, or are the problems serious enough to change the course of the Olympic Games? Should the Games move?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. I understand the anxiety surrounding hosting the Olympics in Brazil, but I think that we’re missing the point. People live in these conditions every day, all over the world. Those of us who live in “safer” conditions are lucky to be able to entertain the idea of postponing the event to avoid facing the same issues Brazilians are facing daily. Perhaps we should be using this world wide event to bring awareness and aid to countries facing health and economic crisis (like Brazil).

    And also – didn’t we continue with the Olympics, even when they were slated to be hosted in NAZI GERMANY?! If the violation of basic human rights isn’t a big enough reason to postpone/move the Olympics, then this situation certainly isn’t either.

    1. I think you make SUCH a valid point here. How can the Olympics be used as a platform to help Brazil (and what precautions can be put in place to support athletes) instead of “PANIC, MOVE THE OLYMPICS IMMEDIATELY.”

    2. Gosh, I hadn’t thought of it that way! Holy #firstworldproblems! Make those rich people swim in poop! (I’m joking in that last sentence, but nevertheless believe your point is very valid!

  2. It’s so complicated that it’s hard for me to even know what my own opinion is on the matter. The selfish answer is I hope the Olympics can just happen as planned because I’ve been looking forward to them since the closing ceremony of the last Summer Olympics! But, like I said, that’s just my own selfishness. I also honestly haven’t been paying really close attention to the Zika headlines, so maybe I need to be more informed before I go throwing around my opinions!

  3. I agree with all of Pumpkin’s thoughts, because I am selfishly torn. I think there is an elitist (at least from a world economic standing question) in what countries should even get the Olympics. Should it be a country that has the proven infrastructure to support Olympic athletes? This isn’t, obviously, the first time there have been concerns about the country where the Olympics are being held. Should there be a protocol in place (or is there one already) about moving/postponing the Olympics? Who decides?

    And, is one big global gathering of athletes more important than the health of those athletes? Are the Olympics bigger than Zika?

    When I think about it, I want to say the health of the athletes is more important. But what will this mean for Brazil, Brazil’s economy, and the health of the people who live in Brazil and are counting on the revenue the Olympics will bring? Are we damning the Brazilian people by moving the Olympics? Could the Olympics be a vital step in moving Brazil closer to economic stability?

    No answers here, and frankly, I’m not sure if these are viable questions. Maybe someone from the WHO should weigh in.

  4. The WHO rejected the letter, saying there is “no public health justification,” but as someone who has been following the Zika headlines/science/etc I will admit here it worries me. If I were an athlete who hadn’t yet had children and was considering pregnancy soon, I’d be worried because of the high risk of microcephaly and other brain defects. Since the virus has been shown to be sexually transmitted, as in you can get it from your partner even if you yourself weren’t bitten by a mosquito, I’d be worried if my partner was an athlete and going. Because viruses mutate and evolve so quickly, and because we really don’t know everything about this virus yet, and because we don’t have a vaccine/treatment/cure yet, sending thousands of potential incubators (humans) from all over the world for the virus to infect, mutate in, then head back across the world to spread into regions where it isn’t present yet seems unwise and unsafe. Sure, most people who get infected will just have mild flu-like symptoms, and then be immune afterward like you are with the chicken pox, but the implications for pregnant women and their babies are horrifying. Holding the Olympics right in the hotbed of an expanding viral disease is like having one of those chicken pox/mumps parties parents used to have back in the day, except the exposed party-goers will jump back onto airplanes and head home across the globe.

    Perhaps I sound a little paranoid… I do trust the WHO to make the right decision based on the best scientific knowledge available now. Here’s a link about Zika:

  5. As someone currently suffering because of a god-forsaken shitty virus (#fumono) the thought of going to Brazil right now makes me nauseous. But in all seriousness, other than Zika, you gotta think if Russia pulled off Sochi, RIo can handle this. Although, I’m concerned about what kind of work conditions people are under and what kind of corruption was needed to make it happen. Basically, the whole Olympics has become such a shady enterprise.

  6. Basically I agree with everything everyone above has said, and will try not to Mansplain my thoughts 😉

    Yes, it’s a very first world problem to live in safer place and not want to travel to a place that deemed “unsafe, or beneath” our level. YES this is a good time to use this to educate, and raise awareness about the problems Citizens in Rio face. BUT is sending a million people there (literally) the best way to go about raising awareness or problem solving? I’m not so sure.

    I have been following the Zika headlines, but definitely do not begin to know enough about it to make a truly informed decision on the matter. I admit that it’s scary to think about for people who want to have families, and I wouldn’t hold it against any athlete who felt it was best for them not to go to the Olympics. Yes the glory would be amazing, but would it be worth it for the potential side effects for those who want to have kids? I could see the case being made for not going in order to preserve their future- the Olympics last a few weeks, kids/family last a hell of a lot longer.

    But, I’ll also second Salty’s notion- Sochi pulled off WINTER Olympic Games in a non-winter environment. So what do I know about how countries can do anything to pull off the games?

  7. I don’t have a direct answer on whether to move the Olympics, but let’s not forget that when Brazil was awarded the Olympic bid it was marred with controversy on its merits. Going to the third world question, maybe the better question is if Rio has the money to put on an Olympics (a money-losing operations), would it be better to direct it towards some of the built-in problems in the area?