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Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

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Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

The coronavirus has caused countless problems for the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics – but it is not the first Games to be held amid a pandemic.

Mass gatherings such as the Olympics, which bring together people from all over the world, have always been a huge risk of spreading infectious diseases. Visitors bring viruses that may not be endemic to the host country or can carry viral “souvenirs” to their homelands upon return.

However, few Olympic organizers were called upon to deal with an outbreak of the size and severity of Covid-19.

Spanish flu, Antwerp 1920

People were still shocked by the deaths of tens of millions of people due to the Spanish flu, when about 2,600 athletes gathered in Antwerp, Belgium to take part in the 1920 Summer Olympics.

Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

It was only two years after World War I and Belgium was still suffering from food shortages. The country could not build a single swimming pool, so officials set up a wooden frame in a canal to house the swimming competitions.

Despite the adverse conditions, the Games continued without serious problems or epidemics – in fact, they were considered a symbol of hope and unity in the post-war, post-pandemic world.

Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

Zika virus, Rio 2016

Prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics, the prevailing debate was about the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease transmitted mainly by the bite of an infected female mosquito of the genus Aedes aegypti.

Symptoms include fever, rash, and joint pain, although a Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies born with unusually small heads.

Several high-profile athletes, such as professional golfer Rory McIlroy, withdrew from the competition due to illness concerns.
Before the Games, the Brownstein team created a map to model the possible transmission of the virus from the Olympics – Brazil was the focus and declared a national public health emergency in 2015.

Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

The researchers mapped areas highly susceptible to the virus, such as parts of Asia and Africa that had dengue cases, the countries that sent the most athletes, and the countries with the most travelers from Brazil.

Although the WHO said there were no confirmed cases of Zika among athletes or travelers at the Rio Games, this does not mean that there were no infections at all, as most people have no symptoms.

While Zika had no impact on the Olympics, he continued to torment the poorest local communities for months to come. Researchers at UC Berkeley argued that seasonal standards predicted a drop in Zika before the Games and that shifting the minimum resources available to a relatively low-risk population – wealthy tourists and athletes – to those who really needed them could have been avoided.

Swine flu, Vancouver 2010

In June 2009, seven months before the start of the Vancouver Winter Games, the WHO declared H1N1 – also known as swine flu – a pandemic.

There were more than 33,000 H1N1 cases and 428 deaths in Canada alone during the period 2009-2010.

Although the pandemic had subsided greatly with the start of the Games, officials were still vigilant.

Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

Public health was tested in every part of the process, from the design of the site, the construction of the facilities and the proper drainage, to the public messages about the necessary precautionary measures and social distancing. Spectators and athletes who could not be vaccinated in their home countries got the vaccine for free on the spot.

In the end, no athlete got stuck with H1N1 at the Vancouver Games.

Norovirus, Pyongyang 2018

Similar precautions were taken at the 2018 Pyongyang Winter Olympics, where officials were facing a norovirus epidemic.

A few days before the opening ceremony, the norovirus – a highly contagious stomach virus – spread among security personnel at an Olympic accommodation facility, infecting 41 security guards.

Olympic Games: And yet, this is not the first time they are in the middle of a pandemic

A total of 1,200 guards were quarantined to limit the spread.

These personnel were quickly replaced by 900 officers from the South Korean military, who were on standby as part of an emergency plan.

Source: CNN

Source: politis.com.cy

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