U of T track stars attack Rio

Four U of T track and field athletes to represent Canada at Olympic games

U of T track stars attack Rio

Although they were missing from the opening ceremonies, Canada has sent, arguably, its best track and field squad to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Among the 65 athlete roster — including London 2012 bronze medalist in the men’s high jump, Derek Drouin, and 100m sprinter, Andre De Grasse, are four female athletes: Alicia Brown (women’s 400m and women’s 4x400m relay), Gabriela Stafford (women’s 1,500m), Andrea Seccafien (women’s 5,000m), and Micha Powell (women’s 4x400m relay), who are not only representing Canada, but U of T as well.

Alicia Brown

Graduating with a bachelor of Communications, Culture, Information and Technology from U of T in 2013, Brown had an incredible intercollegiate career with the Varsity Blues. In 2013, she was the winner of both the provincial and national 300m titles, and was also a member of the national record-breaking women’s 4x200m relay team. Brown was also named U of T’s 2013 female athlete of the year. 2013 was a breakout season for Brown, who, along with all of her university accolades, won the national championship for the 400m.

After graduation, Brown continued to train with Blues sprint head coach Bob Westman and competed for the University of Toronto Track and Field Club (UTTC) where, this year, she crushed the women’s 400m Olympic standard and won the national championship in a personal best time of 51.84. Alicia competed in the preliminary heats of the women’s 400m on Saturday, August 13, where she placed 28th. You can catch her again in the women’s 4x400m relay on Friday, August 19 at 7:40 pm.

Micha Powell

Joining Brown on the Canadian women’s 4x400m relay squad is 21-year-old Micha Powell. Powell, who trains with the University of Toronto Track Club, had a successful season competing in the NCAA Division I Track & Field championships for the University of Maryland, where she holds the indoor and outdoor 400m records. Although the decision of which four of six possible athletes will be chosen to run in the four-woman relay lingers, with a personal best 400m clocking in at 51.97, Powell is a strong contender to represent Canada next Friday in the 4x400m relay preliminaries.

Gabriela Stafford

Third-year U of T psychology student Gabriela Stafford is the third track and field athlete to represent Canada and U of T in Rio. The 20-year-old middle distance phenom will take to the track in the women’s 1,500m event where she has clocked a personal best time of 4:06.53. Stafford is no stranger to success — her career as a Varsity Blue has seen her win multiple accolades, including a silver at the 2015 CIS Cross-Country Championships, two individual golds at the 2016 CIS Championships (over 1,000m and 1,500m), as well as several provincial titles. Stafford booked her trip to Rio after finishing first at the Canadian National Track and Field Championships back in July where she dominated a field of senior athletes in the 1,500m final.

Andrea Seccafien

A member of the UTTC, 5,000m specialist Andrea Seccafien booked her ticket to Rio at the Canadian Olympic Track and Field Trials in July by winning the 5,000m event with a time of 16:00.41.

After sitting out last season due to injury, Seccafien, who is a University of Guelph Alumni, joined the UTTC and has had a stand-out season, winning the prestigious Hoka One One Middle Distance classic in Los Angles where she clocked a personal best 15:17.81 — placing her well below the Canadian Olympic standard. Andrea raced on Tuesday, August 16, at 8:30 am, in the 5,000m preliminaries at Olympic Stadium in Rio. She ranked 20th after the race.

The Olympics that Rio never should have hosted

The IOC must be responsible when selecting host nations

The Olympics that Rio never should have hosted

When the Rio 2016 Olympics commence on August 5, billions of people across the globe will be watching the spectacle — out of a love of sport or patriotic duty.

Concerns about the health and safety of the Olympians, however, have been at the forefront of public scrutiny. Primarily, fears of the Zika virus have forced a large number of athletes to boycott the games.

Another controversy arose when Australian athletes initially refused to stay at the Olympic Village over “uninhabitable” living conditions and the facility’s uncompleted construction. Days later, the same group was robbed of their laptops, clothing, and other personal effects after a small fire forced an immediate evacuation of their living quarters.

And another instance occurred when human fecal matter and other dangerous contaminants were found in Guanabara Bay — the place where the sailing and 10km marathon swimming events will be held. Olympic officials had hoped it would be cleaned up before the games.

The eventful lead-up to Rio has constituted a disastrous period in recent Olympic history. The controversies that surface daily add further insult to an already-tarnished world event. As Rio’s opening ceremony approaches, the myriad of horror stories coming to light has raised the question of whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acted prudently in allowing Brazil to retain hosting duties.

Brazil’s political climate is of great international concern. President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended from her office and will not attend the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, as she is currently facing an impeachment trial. Days before the games begin, her predecessor Luiz InĂĄcio Lula da Silva is also on trial for obstruction of justice. Simply, the nation’s political turmoil has not developed the proper infrastructure that is required to uphold the responsibilities of hosting the games.

[pullquote-default]In the case of Brazil, a nation beset by political instability and financial crisis should not have been allowed to host the world’s most important sporting event.[/pullquote-default]

Economically, Brazil is sputtering. The country is rife with poverty, as it possesses an 11 per cent unemployment rate and a public debt totalling 69 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The Financial Times estimates that the Olympics will cost Brazil $4.1 billion. Considering Brazil’s unsettled political and economic landscape, many are questioning whether the IOC acted responsibly in granting the games to Brazil.

As our Canadian athletes strive for the podium, the determining factor of the Olympics’ success or failure should not be based solely on athletic outcomes. Perhaps the metric of success should not even include sport; instead, it should be determined by the event’s long-term political and financial impact on Brazil — ultimately, by the overall effect of hosting the games on the livelihood of the host nation’s citizens.

The quadrennial event has become notorious for burying financially-unstable countries under a mountain of debt. Greece should have been a cautionary tale for those who believed that Rio could host the Olympics without a hitch. It should also serve as a reminder when selecting host nations in the future.

The economic impact of the 2004 Athens Olympics paints a clear picture of how hosting the games can contribute to a country’s economic decline. In 2012, Bloomberg reported that Greek taxpayers were on the hook for over $10 billion due to the cost of the games — this was in addition to Greece’s GDP deficit of $6.1 billion. Eight years after the Olympics, Greece’s debt had ballooned to 165.3 per cent of its GDP.

In the case of Brazil, a nation beset by political instability and financial crisis should not have been allowed to host the world’s most important sporting event. It seems as though the IOC believes the business of sport is more important than the well-being of a host nation’s impoverished civilians, who are struggling to merely survive.

[pullquote-features]The IOC should form an inquest to investigate whether Brazil’s political and financial environment was able to handle the responsibilities of an Olympic Games host nation.[/pullquote-features]

Because the Olympic events are already scheduled to take place, outlining the concerns over the games will not bring about the immediate changes necessary to address the issues. Following the games, however, the IOC should form an inquest to investigate whether Brazil’s political and financial environment was able to handle the responsibilities of an Olympic Games host nation.

Then, the host nation selection process needs to be improved — more emphasis must be placed on the financial and political stability of a potential host nation and the well-being of its citizens. The Olympics should only be held in stable nations that can afford the enormous costs of hosting the games. With an average price tag in the billions, holding the games is a luxury, not a right. Citizens, such as those in Rio and Athens, should not be subjected to financial crises for simply living in a nation hosting the event.

When the Olympics are open for bidding again, the aftermath of the Rio games is unlikely to be remembered, but many in Brazil will still be reeling from the burden of hosting the games.

Zika virus poses low risk for Rio Olympics

Recent medical study suggests number of tourists infected with Zika will be minimal

Zika virus poses low risk for Rio Olympics

Starting August 5, the summer 2016 Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Popular estimates suggest that around 500,000 tourists will descend upon Rio to watch the games, which leads to discussion and concern of the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

There has been some worry that the attempts to eradicate the virus-infected mosquitoes would prove insufficient, leaving athletes and spectators at risk of contracting the virus.

An article published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that the risk for international travellers contracting Zika is low — it estimates between three and 37 travellers will be infected. The study was conducted under the assumption that travellers would be subject to the same infectious conditions as local residents; it incorporated data from the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which involved a similar scare regarding the mosquito-transmitted Dengue virus.

Although the threat of tourists acquiring and transmitting the Zika virus to other populations remains, the probability of this scenario is less likely than what estimates earlier this year showed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rejected the notion of moving or postponing the summer Olympics in Rio. Back in May, a WHO representative explained that “based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of the Zika virus.”

However, the thought of taking precautions is not unfounded. Currently, vaccines for the virus are still in the experimental stage.

As the Zika virus causes microcephaly in babies — a birth defect transmitted to the children of an infected mother — pregnant women in particular should be cautious about their health when attending the Rio Olympics.