All Your Olympic Health Concerns, Ranked
Any time a major sports spectacle occurs in a so-called "developing nation," a familiar parade of news stories marches across your social media feeds. Poor people get relocated, often forcibly; too much money is spent on facilities unlikely to see much use; glaring human rights violations plague the host nation; sweeping infrastructure changes look doomed to failure, and may not help those who need them most; Russia forgets that it doesn't have to stick to the plot of Rocky IV; etc. etc. etc.
But Rio 2016 is a Nadia-Comăneci-perfect-10 Olympic shitstorm. Not only is Brazil engulfed in a Zika outbreak, but its president was recently impeached (and her replacement banned from running for office for eight years!); its health minister replaced by someone with no health background who's currently under investigation for corruption; and its economy in the dumps. The weather should be hot and humid, at least!
So even though it's probably a bad idea to drop thousands of people into the middle of an epidemic, then send them to literally every corner of the earth three weeks later, that's exactly what's going to happen. If for some reason you're traveling to Brazil (you've always dreamed of entering the belly of a plague?), here are your most pressing health concerns... ranked.
10. Stress over moving your assets into commodities
Did you bet big on iron ore when the Brazilian economy was booming? Was South American soy your ticket to a private island? Are you or were you recently an executive at Petrobras? Hope you have Xanax/Pepcid/a lawyer on hand.
9. Extrajudicial killings
If you can't beat 'em, kill 'em! Crime in Brazil is jusssst a bit of an issue, and in the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup and this year's Olympics, Brazil formed Pacifying Police Units to clean up its gang-controlled favelas. Before the units can enter favelas, though, members of the BOPE (Brazil's most elite police force) carry out operations to clean out the worst offenders.
Unsurprisingly, this process often turns deadly, with police killing more than 1,000 people per year in Rio and Sao Paulo. Some of these killings are legitimate self-defense; after all, many gangs have no problem waging all-out war on the cops. But the BOPE has earned a reputation for extrajudicial killings, a fancy way of saying, "Rolling up on some people and shooting them with no repercussions." Basically, don't piss off the police in Brazil, or join any gangs, and you'll probably be fine.
Still very much a thing! Typhoid realistically won't be much of a concern provided you get the vaccine, but anything that can potentially cause "intestinal hemorrhage or perforation" earns itself an automatic spot on this list.
There was a time when chikungunya was the hot new tropical disease on the block, but Zika came along and stole its thunder. Who knew we'd have all sorts of fun new tropical diseases to look forward to in an era of runaway climate change, global travel networks, and increasingly ineffective drugs? There have been nearly 40,000 cases reported so far this year, so make sure you never, ever, not even once, get a mosquito bite. Making matters even more interesting is the fact that chikungunya, dengue, and Zika all have similar symptoms, so this is actually your best-case scenario!
6. Tainted steroids
You know what's the worst? Getting all amped up for your judo gold medal bout, only to discover you've swallowed a bad batch of the juice. Mr. Putin will not be happy about this disgrace you've brought upon the Motherland. As soon as you recover, you're going to have to watch out for polonium poisoning on top of it all. Years of dedicated training, down the drain.
5. Dengue fever
Known as "The Shy One," dengue doesn't get the attention of Zika, but that's just because it's not linked to microcephaly. OK, fine, you should probably be paying more attention to Zika... except for the fact that Brazil is also battling a dengue outbreak, which, wow, two fucking outbreaks in the same Olympic city? The fun thing about dengue and Zika is that the same mosquito transmits both of them, and these mosquitoes "are daytime feeders that prefer urban habitats, bite multiple humans during each feeding period, and breed primarily in man-made containers such as water tanks, plastic bottles, discarded tires, and flower pots." That doesn't sound like Rio at all.
Have you heard of this virus called Zika? It's a cute little disease that almost no one is talking about in the lamestream media, but is actually a pretty big deal. Oh, you've heard of it? And microcephaly? And Guillain-Barré? And you can pronounce all of them with the fluency of Anderson Cooper? Good for you, so you already know this is the fourth-most-pressing health concern of the Olympics.
3. Regular old murder
Extrajudicial killings are bad, but there were only 1,519 of them in 2014 -- which accounted for 16% of all Rio murders. Holy shit, that means there were 9,494 murders that year, and across Brazil there were nearly 60,000. For comparison, in the US, there were a little more than 14,000 murders that same year, and there are about 100 million more people in the US.
2. Foul, disgusting, fetid water
You may or may not get bitten by a mosquito, but you're DEFINITELY going to come into contact with water. Lest you think that's too many vague adjectives to describe water quality, why don't you read what local biologist Mario Moscatelli told Public Radio International about Rio's mighty rivers:
"The rivers feeding into the lagoons are pure sh--... the feces of thousands of people emptied into the river without treatment."
Rio 2016: The Feces of Thousands of People Emptied Into the River Without Treatment. Could be a catchy slogan! The rest of the piece on Rio's water conditions is truly terrifying, replete with ominous phrases like "nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea" and "the water situation in Rio is dire." This comes in addition to the AP's reporting on the crisis, which essentially says the water Olympians will be using is pathogen-filled sewage. Don't worry TOO much, though -- there's a mere 99% chance of getting sick after ingesting three teaspoons of the stuff, so it'll take... ohhhh wait, no, that's really bad.
1. All sorts of STDs
Everyone knows that the REAL goal of the Olympics is to give athletes and their coteries a safe space for orgies -- the Olympics is a fuckfest, basically, and if they just called it Rio Fuckfest 2016, Brazil could save itself from wasting money on stadiums, pools, and light rail.
Looking for the requisite outrageous number of free condoms being distributed to the Olympic Village this year? It's 450,000, enough for each athlete to have sex 84 times, which is just shy of four times per day over three weeks, not accounting for breakage or misuse or blowing them up and making silly balloon animals. They're going to need more condoms, is the point.
And that's just the athletes! Think of all the visitors, tourists, and locals looking for Rio 2016 to serve as their wingman. The only problem with shipping strangers from around the world into one city to bang, is: STDs. Even the CDC warns that the "celebratory atmosphere" could lead to risky sex. On the other hand, "to have more sex" might be the only defensible reason to host the Olympics at this point.
Given the context, what could be less inspiring than witnessing the greatest athletes in the world compete for their nations' glory in ad hoc palaces dedicated to niche sports, while 85,000 security troops suppress any potential chaos and provide a sanitized experience for the legions of athletes and foreign tourists who will… stimulate the economy?
The metaphors offered by the Olympics are so rich you couldn't make them up if you tried: the elite gather, a very select few take home the gold, a few more collect the silver and bronze, the remaining get to celebrate the company in which they find themselves -- and everyone else is expected to watch and cheer, hoping that some of the glory will trickle down to them.
Oh well! How 'bout that Michael Phelps, huh? U-S-A! U-S-A!!!
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