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How Rory's decision to boycott Rio Olympics because of Zika virus threat wins backing of respected scientists

By Lindy McDowell

Published 20/07/2016

Games gamble: thousands of competitors are heading to Rio but Rory McIlroy will not be one of them
Games gamble: thousands of competitors are heading to Rio but Rory McIlroy will not be one of them
Rory McIlroy

Say what you will about his muscly T-shirt look, but I think Rory McIlroy has got it spot-on regarding Zika. McIlroy has been rapped recently for supposedly "showing off his muscles" - this according to an NBC golf commentator who claims that weight training has been to the detriment of the golfer's game.

But the Holywood star has also taken a more widespread and serious pasting for his decision to opt out of this year's Olympics in Brazil over concerns about the Zika virus.

He is not the only refusenik. A number of other competitors, most notably in golf, have also pulled out citing similar concerns.

A few tennis players have withdrawn, too.

And there are reports that now some sports journalists are refusing to travel to Rio as well. Critics (and there are always plenty of those) argue that there are other reasons why the golfers in particular don't want to go.

But concerns about a virus which could have devastating and long-term consequences for your family strikes me as being as good a reason as any for pulling out.

In truth, however, it's bigger than that. The danger is not just to the sports competitors and those workers attending the games.

For there is the same, if not even greater risk, to spectators.

And to the people they will come into wider contact with on their return back home. Rather than slagging off the likes of Rory, should we not be paying more attention to the appeal by over 200 scientists, from all over the globe, who have written to the World Health Organisation (Who) asking for the Games to be postponed or held somewhere else? (There is some precedence for this latter idea - in 2003 Fifa relocated the finals of the Women's World Cup from China to America over fears about Sars.)

I am no scientist, myself. But these people are the experts and to my mind, by far the most disturbing line in their appeal is this one: "The Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before..."

We already know that the Zika virus in pregnancy can cause microcephaly - babies born with abnormally small heads.

Many of these children have also been born with a range of disabilities including sight and hearing defects. In adults, the Brazilian viral strain of Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome which attacks the auto-immune system.

The virus is transmitted mainly by mosquito.

But there is also evidence of it being passed on via sexual intercourse.

Olympics organisers, needless to say, are more sanguine about the level of risk.

Among preventative steps, they point out, visitors should use mosquito nets and mosquito repellent.

As someone who routinely gets eaten alive by insects during the summer months, I wouldn't set a whole lot of store by the efficacy of either.

My experience has been that if a midge or a mosquito really wants to make a meal of you, it will find a way.

Most of those competitors intending to take part in the Olympics - and very many of those travelling to Rio to watch them - are of child-bearing age.

The health risks of a virus about which science still does not know everything are obvious.

Tellingly a number of male athletes have revealed that they are having their sperm frozen before they travel to Brazil.

And that their wives and children will not be accompanying them.

Whether this is excessive or wise precaution remains to be seen.

But instead of sneering at Rory McIlroy and others who have flagged up entirely genuine concerns, critics would be better employed, I think, casting an eye towards the Who's record on, say, Ebola.

Not so swift off the starting blocks there either. As those 200-plus worried scientists fearfully remind us ...

This Rolling Stone clearly gathers no moss

Mick Jagger is set to join AC DC - the Ancient Celebrity Dads Club. After all, anything Ronnie Wood can do ...

And yet, apart from putting a bit of pressure on poor Keef, this latest news from the Stones' maternity department is a bit of welcome light relief in a world that is sadly too dark right now. Okay, so Jagger will be 90 by the time his youngest is old enough to vote. But on the plus side Mick does seem to be a devoted dad. Let's give the old boy a break.

Our May is one always in headlines for me

An unexpected side effect of the personnel change at Number 10 is best summed up, for me anyway, by the likes of this headline: “May to clash with Jeremy Corbyn over Trident.” This is going to take a bit of time to get used to, I would say. For, I don’t know about you, but every time I see that word ‘May’ in a newspaper headline these days, I still don’t automatically think Prime Minister. I think McFettridge

Belfast Telegraph

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