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2016 Olympics

Hope Solo, U.S. Women Voice Concerns About Rio

From security matters to contaminated water to the Zika virus, numerous potential hazards hang over the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The U.S. women's national team is not immune to the distractions.
BY John D. Halloran Posted
August 01, 2016
4:25 PM

LOOKING TO WIN its fourth straight Olympic gold medal, the United States women’s national team departed for Brazil this week ahead of the Americans’ tournament opener against New Zealand on August 3.

Following its 4-0 thrashing of Costa Rica on Saturday and amassing a 14-0-1 record in 2016 under head coach Jill Ellis, the Americans’ form poses little worry. However, some players are concerned about a number of issues the squad may face off the field, including the impeachment of Brazil’s president, the failure of Rio to pay its police force, issues with contaminated water, and—of course—the Zika virus.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo addressed those concerns while speaking to the media ahead of the team’s friendly against South Africa earlier this month in Chicago.

“Look, I’m going to deal with the hotels that aren’t five stars. I’m going to deal with being in Brazil and dealing with, perhaps, dirty water, or dealing with Zika,” said Solo. “I made that decision to deal with that, but I didn’t make the decision to deal with the lack of security. For me, that was kind of like, enough is enough. We have to be secure as athletes.

“We’re already putting ourselves in position to deal with Zika, to deal with a number of different issues and everything that’s going on in Brazil, whether that’s the President being impeached, or the police officers not getting paid. There’s so many things we already have to deal with, at least make sure the athletes are secure.”

According to Solo, the security concerns are elevated even higher due to the fact the U.S. won’t be staying inside the Olympic village. Because the bulk of the Olympic soccer tournament is held outside Rio—only one semifinal match and the final are actually held in the host city—Solo explained the team is relying on U.S. Soccer to keep the players safe.

Officials with U.S. Soccer “are really looking into the security aspect in Brazil. Some of the players are worried a little about that, especially not being in the [Olympic] village. We want to be given the proper security,” said Solo.

She later added, “I don’t think anyone is 100% feeling great about everything. I know that I’m not.”

Ellis addressed concerns about the Zika virus ahead of the U.S.’ match last week in Kansas City, noting that multiple agencies are providing the American team with the information and resources they need.

“We crossed that bridge a while ago,” said the coach. “It’s ever-changing, the information that’s coming out. We are getting updates. We’ve had the CDC, we’ve had the USOC [talk to us], we’ve actually been tested as a team because they’re going to test us when we come back.

“We’ve had a lot of medical information shared with us. Ultimately, the players make that decision. Everybody’s feeling good about the things that we are doing. Unfortunately, it’s something that everybody in the world is going to have to deal with, it’s not just down there. It’s part of everybody’s life.”

Ellis also credited U.S. Soccer with keeping her well-informed and explained that the team will remain focused despite the many distractions—both good and bad—that accompany playing in such a big tournament.

“When I see those [Olympic] rings down there, I know my team is going to be even more locked-in,” said Ellis. “It becomes very real for them. Everything has been prep, it’s talked about, but now it becomes real. The ability for this team to zero in, to focus, to create this bubble around us, is exceptional.”

Forward Christen Press admitted that she has thought about the issues facing the U.S. as it heads to Brazil, but also stated she’s more worried about those who live in Zika-affected regions.

“I think that we’re concerned about all of it, all the headlines,” said Press. “At the same time, you have to keep it in perspective. When I think about Zika, I’m most concerned with the people that don’t have the information and the resources to help themselves that are being affected right now.

“That’s not necessarily us, going down with the best resources, the best people to help us. If something happens with Zika, then it will become my concern. But until then I really do spend more of my time worrying about the people I wish we would spend more resources toward helping.”

Press also argued that pre-tournament concerns are always a talking point and that she feels safe as the U.S. heads to Brazil.

“Every time we travel abroad, every time there’s an Olympics, everyone’s talking about the same things. For me, I feel like I’m very blessed in this environment where I’m kept safe, for the most part, from a lot of these concerns,” said Press.

“I trust the people that are helping us out and protecting us.”

John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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