Rwandan athletes in Rio unfazed by Zika threat


L-R; Manirarora, Fidele Sebalinda, Joannah Umurungi, Clarisse Ingabire, Eloi Imaniraguha and Henriette Umulisa pose behind the Olympic rings in Rio. (Courtsey)

The Chef de Mission of the Rwanda athletics team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Elie Manirarora, has said that the health dangers posed by the Zika virus ahead of the summer games have not affected the athletes.

Speaking to Times Sport in a phone interview, Manirarora revealed that the Rwandan athletes, who have already arrived in Rio, are not bothered by the threat of the dengue virus after they were given basic briefings on how to prevent it.

“Since arriving here, we have not seen any Zika patients, we just read about it in the media-everything is normal and going according to plan, the athletes are just focused on the competitions,” said Manirarora.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad, commonly known as Rio 2016, will start today with the official opening ceremony in Brazil and will run until August 21.

Rwanda will field a total of seven athletes—three runners, two cyclists and two swimmers.

Meanwhile, Hermas Cliff Muvunyi and the women sitting volley team of 12 players will compete at the Rio Paralympics slated for September 7-18.

The outbreak of mosquito-borne Zika virus in South America earlier this year, has cast a shadow over preparations for the games and authorities are on alert and anxieties are rising among athletes, officials and supporters.

These fears have led to some top athletes, mainly golfers and tennis players to pull out of competing in the Games altogether.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Significance in February 2016. Many nations have issued warnings for pregnant women to avoid travel to countries experiencing an outbreak of Zika virus and this list includes Brazil.

There were calls to cancel, or move, the Olympics due to the risk of Zika virus.

But the good news is that the games are going to take place during Brazil's wintertime when there are fewer active mosquitoes and the risk of being bitten is lower, according to the World Health Organisation.

Excellent reception

Asked about the conditions in the athletes’ village, Manirarora noted that: “We were given an excellent reception; we are housed in apartment number 10 of the Olympic village, on floor number 13.”

“Our athletes are getting used to the weather conditions, in brief, everything is going on well here,” he explained.
The athletes already in Rio include; swimmers Joannah Umurungi and Eloi Imaniraguha, road race cyclist and Team Rwanda captain, Adrien Niyonshuti, who touched based on Monday.

Officials include; Fidele Sebalinda (press attaché), Henriette Umulisa (medical), logistic Clarisse Ingabire (logistics) and Manirarora.

The other athletes: Claudette Mukasakindi (Marathon), Salome Nyirarukundo (10,000m) will arrive on August 9, Nathan Byukusenge (Mountain bike) will arrive on August 15, while Ambroise Uwiragiye (Marathon) is expected to be in Rio on August 16.