Why so many athletes are skipping the Rio Olympics
Thinking of travelling to Rio for the Olympics and need lastminute accommodations? Perhaps Olympic organizers will consider renting out rooms in the athletes’ village, as there will be more cancellations and vacancies than usual.
Although more than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries are headed to Rio, the list of who’s not going has been growing in recent weeks.
The entire 68-member Russian track and field team faces a ban from participating in Rio following revelations of a widespread government-run doping program.
Track athletes will not take part unless they can satisfy strict doping criteria. So far, only one athlete has been able to do that. This week eight Russian athletes from canoeing, modern pentathlon and sailing were banned, as were seven swimmers and three rowers.
With less than two weeks to go until the Aug. 5 opening ceremonies, the International Olympic Committee must now decide whether further sanctions will be imposed on Russian athletes in other sports.
Meanwhile, more than 20 male golfers, including the top four in the world, are saying, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to the historic return of their sport to the Olympics after 104 years. Most of them cited concerns over the Zika virus and scheduling issues (which some critics have translated to mean they would rather make money at a PGA Tour event that week than play for free in Rio).
Among those skipping the Games are Jason Day, Jason Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Rory McIroy, who conceded that another reason golfers might not be clamouring to go is that an Olympic gold medal is not the crowning achievement in their sport.
“I’ve said to people I have four Olympic Games (major championships) a year,” McIlroy told reporters. “That’s my pinnacle. That’s what I play for. That’s what I’ll be remembered for.
“Some people argue that it would have been better to send amateurs there, but the whole reason that golf is in the Olympics is because they wanted the best players to go and compete. But unfortunately with where it is this year, people just aren’t comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk.
“I’d say if the Olympic Games were in most other cities or most other countries in the world this year, you wouldn’t find as many people not wanting to go and participate.
The same can be said for Olympic tennis, where Wimbledon finalist and world No. 7 Milos Raonic of Canada is among a handful of Top 20 players backing out of the trip to Rio. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will be there competing for gold, but French Open semifinalist Dominic Thiem, No. 16 American John Isner and No. 20 Feliciano Lopez of Spain will not.
They all opted to play in ATP Tour events instead as these tournaments give ranking points and the Olympics do not.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my withdrawal from participation in the Rio Games,” Raonic said on his Facebook page. He represented his country at London in 2012 and plays on the Canadian Davis Cup team. “After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus.
The U.S. men’s basketball team will also be missing some big names. Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Chris Paul said they need to rest. Russell Westbrook and James Harden cited “unspecified reasons.” Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin are injured.