Tejay van Garderen's self-exclusion from consideration for selection to the United States' road cycling team competing for in the upcoming Summer #Olympics because of potential #Health risks is a wise decision.
Van Garderen, 27, who twice has finished in the top five overall in the Tour de France, announced his decision June 2, citing potential risks to his pregnant wife from the Zika virus prominent in Brazil. Its severity prompted more than 100 physicians and other health officials in late May to suggest in a letter to the World Health Organization that the Summer Olympics be postponed or moved to a new location.
It's wishful thinking. But it won’t happen unless countries withdraw their participation or a major network declines to broadcast the competition. There’s too much at stake with global television broadcast rights and international politics for the Summer Games to deviate from its plans.
Summer Games won't be cancelled
Van Garderen, a native of Tacoma, Washington, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, is preparing for this year’s Tour de France. It’s the pinnacle of his season and participating in the Olympics is not important for his continued financial future in the sport.
The cyclist didn’t mention other concerns currently in the news about Rio de Janeiro, the first city in South America to host an Olympic Games. But there are several other obstacles with the competition now about two months away:
* The velodrome, the venue for track cycling, has not been completed.
* Violence. A recent comprehensive report on the PBS News Hour detailed massive theft, murder and other gang-related violence in major cities.
* Water pollution. A recent article on ESPN.com provided elaborate details of the water-cleaning project that went awry in the areas where rowing events will take place. In its place, officials are using large nets to skim the water surface of large debris — so the water won’t look bad on television broadcasts.
* Political unrest. The country’s president is being heavily criticized and there’s been a call for his impeachment.
Rio De Janeiro in chaos
Van Garderen is at least the third athlete who has opted not to compete in the Summer Olympics. Top Fijian golfer Vijay Singh and Australian golfer Marc Leishman have also opted not to participate in Rio de Janeiro based on health concerns. Many other athletes have expressed similar concerns.
Cyclist Megan Guarnier, the reigning U.S. national road champion, who qualified for the Summer Olympics last September, said during the recent Tour of California she plans to participate in Rio de Janeiro.
Guarnier, a New York native who lives part-time in San Mateo, California, said she’s wanted to compete in the Olympics since she was a young girl. She believes she’ll compete on roads already built and safe. She plans to stay in the Olympic Village, where she believes she’ll be as safe as possible.
Van Garderen is an emotional athlete. His successes and failures in the sport are often accompanied by strong reactions, sometimes to his detriment.
But by opting not to compete in the Summer Olympics, the cyclist has also shown his maturity. He’s chosen his family’s health as a priority. Congratulations to him. Here’s hoping other athletes do the same.
While being an Olympic-caliber athlete is an accomplishment, the potential glory is outweighed by the shortcomings of a country on the brink of possible collapse. How can the safety of the athletes possibly be a priority?