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2016 Rio Olympics: Zika Virus a Concern for Olympic Golf

Photo: AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File

A worker cuts the grass on the Olympic Golf course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A top official of the International Golf Federation says the new course will get its first test in March 2016 with a one-day event.

Add the Zika virus to the growing list of challenges facing Olympic golf organizers.

GOLF.com has learned that the Olympic golf officials are taking extra precautions to prevent golfers and spectators from contracting the disease in Brazil, because the golf competition will take place near standing water hazards, common breeding sites for mosquitoes, which transmit the virus. There are two manmade ponds on the Gil Hanse-designed Olympic course in Rio; the larger one comes into play on the second, third and fifth holes, while the smaller is in play only on the 10th.

According to infectious disease experts, as many as 1.5 million people are believed to have already been infected in Brazil, which will host about 500,000 visitors from around the world this August, stoking fears of a global outbreak. While not normally life threatening, the virus may cause birth defects. 

International Golf Federation Vice President Ty Votaw told GOLF.com that efforts to educate players about the risks are underway and that the IGF and the International Olympic Committee are working in tandem with World Health Organization experts to combat the spread of the disease.

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“We’re having discussions about the precautionary steps we feel need to be taken in and around the golf competition and making plans to implement them to the maximum degree,” Votaw said.

According to Votaw, those steps could include distributing special mosquito repellant and “creating movement” in the ponds on the course to eliminate the standing water.

The men’s golf competition is scheduled for Aug. 11-14. The women’s event is Aug. 17-20.

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