Vos unfazed by Brazil's financial crisis, politics, unfinished infrastructure ahead of Rio Olympics
'I'm pretty sure that by August 5 everything will be right,' says defending road race champion
The current state of disarray over unfinished infrastructure at the site of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, mixed with the city's financial emergency and the public health risks surrounding the Zika virus, have not fazed Marianne Vos from concentrating on the task of defending her title in the women's road race on August 7. The Dutch rider firmly believes that the venues will be ready and the show will go on, even if it comes down to the last minute.
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"It doesn't matter where the Games are," Vos told Cyclingnews. "I follow the news, where the infrastructure is at, the health status with the Zika virus and all the construction problems, and struggles organisation-wise. I'm pretty sure that in the end, on August 5, everything will be right because these things happen at every Olympic Games."
The lead-up to this Olympic Games has been worrisome. To name a few reasons, the newly built bike path that parallels the road race course collapsed into the sea in April with five people reported missing and two reported dead.
In June, Rio de Janeiro's city government announced that it had switched the construction contract for the velodrome to a new company after the previous firm had filed for bankruptcy protection. Although the construction of the velodrome was incomplete as of early June, organisers vowed to have the venue ready for riders to train on at the end of this month.
Brazil's public health has also been impacted by the outbreak of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus linked to a surge in severe birth defects. Health concerns led American Tejay van Garderen to opt out of attending the Olympics. On this topic, Vos expressed her concern, too, and hopes that athletes and the public are safe from infection.
"I hope of course, health-wise, that the Zika virus won't be a problem for the athletes or people surrounding the Olympic Games, but politically every country has its issues. "
But Rio de Janeiro is in deeper financial stress than previously expected. Last Friday, the city declared a state of financial emergency and requested federal funds to help fulfill obligations for public services during the Olympics Games, according to a report in Reuters.
The funding would help to avoid "a total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management," reported in the Official Gazette. Although Mayor Eduardo Paes wrote in a post on Twitter that the state financial emergency would in no way delay the delivery of the Olympic Games.
"It is a huge event, there is a lot of money involved and economically it is not too easy to organise the Olympic Games, especially for a country like Brazil," Vos said. "I can image they have some problems but these problems happen every time, and every time, it works out OK. I'm quite comfortable that it will be fine."
The cycling events at the Olympic Games will start with the men's 256.4km road race on August 6 followed by the women's 130.3km road race on August 7, both held at the Fort Copacabana.
"For the athletes, it doesn't matter where you compete, it's the Olympic Games," Vos said. "It will be fantastic to race along the Copacabana, and to go into the favelas and to be there in Rio de Janeiro.
"It is the Olympic Games. It's a circus and they place the circus somewhere on earth and for the athletes that's the place where you will perform."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.