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Protests, Zika and the wider issue of doping cannot take the shine off this golden opportunity for our athletes

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 06/08/2016

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is behind the large outbreaks of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean (AP)
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is behind the large outbreaks of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean (AP)

The 2016 Olympic Games are finally under way in Brazil and, despite all the hiccups on the way, the public will be swept up in the excitement and skill of arguably the greatest sporting contest in the world.

Sadly, the build-up has been mired in controversy, including the protests there by those who are highlighting the vast cost of staging the Games at the expense of the country's millions of poor people.

The threat from the Zika virus, as well as the complex economic and political picture currently in Brazil, has added to the negative publicity.

There has also been the drugs issue, with disquiet over the number of Russians being allowed to compete, despite evidence of State involvement in doping.

There has been disappointing news, too, that a boxer from Team Ireland has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

However, all of this must not be allowed to overshadow the outstanding performance of so many talented athletes in qualifying for the Games.

Just getting there after long periods of self-sacrifice and hard training has been a major achievement in itself.

After many hours of determination and sweat in developing the skills to the best of their abilities, the outcome for these participants will now rest on their being able to make the best of a rare chance to create sporting history.

There is an exciting contingent of athletes from this island who will compete for Great Britain or Team Ireland, including 27 competitors from Northern Ireland.

Amongst our Olympians are a golfer, a horse rider, rowers, and hockey players.

Despite all of the difficulties and challenges, this is the time to enjoy a great sporting spectacle.

And it is also the time to send our best wishes to them, particularly to our own competitors from Northern Ireland who are embarking on the experience of a lifetime - and, perhaps, will bring back medals as well.

Belfast Telegraph

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