Zika virus is no threat to local fans, TeamSA
Sports lovers are set to travel to Rio
TEAM South Africa has always enjoyed tremendous support from local fans at the Olympic Games – and this year will be no different.
Despite fears over the Zika virus and the significant weakening of the rand, South African sports lovers will travel in their droves to Rio de Janeiro next month to show their support for our Olympians.
Already Fli-Afrika Travel, the sole tour and ticketing operator appointed by the Olympic Games local organising committee, has sold out all its packages for the Rio Games.
The sports management agency had several on offer, including the opening and closing ceremonies. A standard package – which includes three-star accommodation and four match event tickets, but excludes flights – costs anywhere between R20 000 and R22 000.
But while all the packages have been sold out, Fli-Afrika still has match event tickets available.
Company director Nazeer Camaroodeen said South African sports fans were not deterred from attending major sporting events by factors such as fears of the Zika virus.
“Those that were concerned about the Zika virus visited their travel clinics. It’s winter time in Rio de Janeiro so the Zika virus is dormant.
“The people travelling to Brazil will take the necessary precautions and make sure nothing happens, just like all other sporting events they attend around the word.”
He added: “There are always fears ahead of any major tournament and this could happen anywhere in the world. If you’re travelling to a place like the Kruger Park, you will be told to take malaria tablets and be careful.”
Camaroodeen added that many negative things were said ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, but the event was one of the best organised World Cups.
“Every country has its shortcomings. I am sure the Brazilians have taken every precaution to control things like the Zika virus and will make it safe for the athletes, their families and supporters.
“Just like any other country you visit – don’t go to the wrong areas, don’t eat the wrong food, and just be a little bit more careful.”
Camaroodeen said Fli-Afrika Travel had, to date, sold just more than 4 000 match event tickets for the Olympics, but expected to sell many more as sports fans were likely to make arrangements at the 11th hour.
“Some athletes are still in the process of qualifying for the Rio Olympics and this could determine the final numbers of those who would be interested.”
The most popular events among South Africans are swimming and athletics, according to Camaroodeen.
“Previously we had men’s and women’s hockey which was very popular, but unfortunately they haven’t qualified for this year’s Games.
“Rugby tickets have also been very popular amongst South Africans this year with the introduction of the Rugby Sevens.”
While sales have been good for the Rio games, Camarood- een said the 2012 London Olympics was more popular.
“Lots of South Africans have family and friends living in London, so the destination was more attractive.
“Also, South Africans could travel to different countries like Italy and Spain, and could make the most of their trip to Europe.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Lee- Anne Pace became the first woman golfer to withdraw from the Rio Olympics, saying she would not play in Brazil because she fears contracting the Zika virus.
“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity,” Pace told the media on Thursday.
“However, over recent months my team has been monitoring the situation regarding the Zika virus and finding out as much information as possible. After weighing up all the options and discussing it with my family and team, I have decided that due to the health concerns I will not be participating.”
Many of the world’s topranked men’s golf players have also said no to Rio, including top-ranked Jason Day of Australia, his countrymen Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, Fiji’s Vijay Singh, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace, and potential Irish team members Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell.
Aside from Zika virus concerns, the Rio Games have also been dogged by accusations of incompetence, corruption and fears that Brazil is not fully ready to stage the event.
UK newspaper The Express reported that those travelling to Rio de Janeiro this week were greeted by a sign at the city’s airport saying ‘welcome to hell’, and warning them emergency services were understaffed and underpaid.
The Rio Olympic Games will be staged from August 5 to 21. firstname.lastname@example.org