Kenya planning on track for Rio Olympics; No Zika boycott

AP News
Posted: Feb 09, 2016 12:40 PM
Kenya planning on track for Rio Olympics; No Zika boycott

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya is preparing as planned for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics while also monitoring the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil, the official in charge of the country's team said Tuesday.

Team chief Stephen Arap Soi denied reports that Kenya was threatening to pull out of the Olympics if the mosquito-borne virus was not contained, telling The Associated Press it was "too early" to talk about not going to the games, which are six months away.

"We assure all we are preparing for Rio 2016 as planned," Soi said.

Kenya's Olympic committee also released a statement later Tuesday saying it had "not made any decision specifically on the issue of (the) Zika virus."

Brazil is experiencing an outbreak of the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly through Latin America and has been linked to birth defects. Pregnant women have been urged to avoid travel to affected areas.

Rio organizers have tried to calm fears that the Olympics may be affected, saying there is only a risk to pregnant women and the games will not be canceled. The games will also be held in Brazil's winter, when colder temperatures should reduce the mosquito population.

The International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence in measures being taken against the virus in Brazil and is following the advice of the World Health Organization. The IOC has distributed the guidance to all national Olympic committees.

"First, we get regular updates from Rio organizers and the IOC on the situation in Brazil," Soi said. "If there is an outbreak of a disease caused by mosquitoes, we have the same problems with mosquitoes here and there are measures that can be taken.

"Secondly, the IOC owns the Olympics and it is they who advise member NOCs on whether to send athletes to the games and, thus far, we have not received such advisories on (not) travelling to Rio."

Soi said comments by Kenyan Olympic committee head Kip Keino may have been taken out of context when local and international media reported earlier Tuesday that Kenya was threatening to boycott the games over Zika. Keino was quoted as saying Kenya wouldn't send athletes "unless they (Brazilian organizers) clean the venues of this potentially dangerous disease."

Kenya is targeting a successful Olympics after tying with Jamaica for the highest number of gold medals at last year's track and field world championships in Beijing. Kenya won the second highest number of medals overall after the United States.

The Rio Olympics, the first in South America, are scheduled from Aug. 5-21.