BOSTON (CBS) — The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are now less than three months away, and the country of Brazil may not be prepared.
Toucher & Rich discussed the issues in Brazil on Thursday’s show, saying that anybody traveling to Brazil right now is “out of their minds.”
“Let’s start with this: there are mosquitoes that are carrying this disease that can paralyze you. The Zika virus,” Fred Toucher said. “It can cause massive birth defects.”
“As a matter of fact, the Harvard Public Health Review just released a bold statement,” Rich Shertenlieb added. “These are the foremost experts on the Zika virus and what’s going on. They said, ‘Brazil’s Zika problem is inconveniently not ending. The outbreak that began in the country’s northeast has reached Rio de Janeiro, where it is flourishing. Clinical studies are also mounting that Zika infection is associated not just with pediatric microcephaly and brain damage, but also … can be debilitating and sometimes fatal.’
“‘Simply put, Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil’s outbreak more extensive, than scientists reckoned a short time ago. Which leads to a bitter truth: the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games must be postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession.'”
The reasons for that statement are plentiful, but Rich spotlighted one: there are 26,000 suspected cases of Zika in Rio.
“Or in other words,” the Harvard Public Health Review doctors wrote, “according to the Brazil’s official data, Rio is not on the fringes of the outbreak, but inside its heart.”
“And then there’s the other part of it that they mention in this report,” Rich added. “When you have all of these international people coming into a country that’s infected with Zika, what happens to those people? They go back to all these countries where Zika is not presently known, and they spread it. So just because of the Olympics, it could be the worst possible scenario for spreading this virus internationally.”
Rich also shared a story from U.S. women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo, who said she doesn’t plan on leaving her hotel room except to practice and play games.
But health scares are only part of it, as the government of Brazil is in a state of complete turmoil.
President Dilma Rouseff is currently suspended as she awaits an impeachment trial. The country is currently being led by an interim president.
“Apparently, the economics are so bad there that it’s better impeaching the president in the hopes of turning the country around,” Jon Wallach relayed. “And corruption has been widespread throughout the government over the last year.”
“Well it seemed odd that they were able to prepare for a World Cup and an Olympic Games, they were able to do that infrastructure,” Fred said. “That seems like an awful lot of money to be investing into things.”
“On top of that,” Rich said, “the venues and the infrastructure aren’t ready.”
“And isn’t the water polluted of sewage?” Fred asked.
Plus, there’s this: “On the morning of April 21, a 150-foot-long section of Rio de Janeiro’s spanking new coastal bike path was lofted into the air by a breaking wave and tossed into the churning ocean below. Several people plunged onto the rocks and waves below. At least two men died in the accident, their bodies placed on a nearby beach and draped with colorful sarongs in front of a crowd of onlookers.”
From the outside, it seems like a disaster waiting to happen. But is it possible that it’s just fear-mongering, similar to the overblown fear in Sochi, Russia two years ago for the Winter Games?
The answer to that question is no, according to a caller named Luis, who is from Brazil.
“No, this is not even the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The Rio issue, not only is the Zika thing for real, but the entire health system — particularly in Rio, and we’re talking about one most corrupted states and cities in the entire country, where everybody who is in the government and is being investigated for something. … Brazil’s been using a lot of the same infrastructure that was used for the 2008 Pan-American Games, and those were built basically following every shady construction deal that happened with the government. It was basically built to fall apart, so they could get extra money to try to fix it.
“Everything’s falling apart,” he said.
Fred asked the called if, as a native of Brazil, the Olympics should be moved to another country.
“We would never be getting the Olympics if it weren’t for something weird that happened. All of a sudden Brazil won the World Cup and the Olympics in a two-year span? With no reason, with no past history of even being considered,” he said. “So there’s something very weird that happened. We’re trying to get relatives out, because of the whole economic crisis, the political crisis, and now Zika being everywhere. So if you’re planning on going, go anywhere in the world. Change your mind. Go to the Bahamas. Go to any place in the world — it’s better than going to Rio right now.”
In terms of alternatives, some cities that have hosted the Summer Olympics in recent years could be options.
“The ’76 Winter Olympics were moved [from Denver to Austria], the ’94 Winter Olympics broke with the regular schedule and they had to move it around,” Rich said. “And they’re saying that all of these different places — London, Beijing, Athens, Sydney — they still have all of these usable venues. And they’ve all but said, ‘We’re ready if Rio can’t pull this off.'”