Stay in the athletes’ village ... and don’t forget your mosquito repellent ... Hong Kong Olympic athletes warned

Squad will be under tight control to prevent any mishaps in Rio, which is known for its high crime rate and is also reeling from the Zika virus threat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 1:10am

Hong Kong athletes have been warned: bring your mosquito repellent and walk the streets of Rio at your peril.

Hong Kong’s Olympic squad are taking no chances as 37 athletes – several of them have yet to confirm their Rio places – plus a yet to be determined number of officials and delegates will be under tight control to prevent any mishaps in the crime-infested city that is also reeling from the threat of the Zika virus.

The squad will travel from one of the world’s safest cities to one of the world’s most dangerous with horror stories about athletes being mugged in Rio already reported. Then there’s the Zika virus to contend with that has scared off a number of the world’s top golf players such as Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

For the first time at an Olympic Games, Hong Kong athletes will not be allowed to leave the athletes’ village upon arriving in Rio. And if they really need to go out and about, they need special permission, which may or may not be granted.

Athletes have been asked to refrain from dining out, sightseeing and other social activities outside the athletes’ village.

“We all know the situation in Rio and the delegation has the responsibility to ensure athletes’ security once they arrive there,” said Chef de Mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong at a briefing on Wednesday. “It would be better for them to stay in the athletes’ village when they are not training or competing. This is for their own safety.

“I don’t think it will create any problems for them. Athletes are going to the Olympic Games to strive for honour for Hong Kong and must be very focused for preparing their events. But if they are bored, there are also many social and cultural activities inside the village, which they can enjoy.”

Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, a veteran official who has attended every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games, said the Rio Games would present a whole new experience for her – for the wrong reasons.

“We have read a lot of negative reports on the Games’ security, health, social issues and many other problems Rio are facing,” she said.

“It seems conditions are really chaotic. There were also problems with the 2004 Athens Games before we went there, but the problems in Rio are expected to be very real.

“We must ensure the safety of our athletes. This is our top priority. The Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime experience. The athletes treasure the opportunity of competing very much and would not want to be affected by outside factors. All we have to do is to provide them with the best environment, so that they can focus on their sports.”

To help with the Zika and dengue fever threat in Rio, all members of the Hong Kong Olympic squad will be provided with an electric mosquito repellent (incense), a mosquito net and insect repellent.

“Athletes at outdoor events such as road race cycling, mountain biking, rowing and golf must be aware of the threat caused by mosquitoes,” said medical official Julian Chang.

“Other athletes also need to be careful when they leave for training in the morning at the shuttle bus stop and when they return in the evening. These are the times when mosquitoes are most active.”

A confirmed list of 34 athletes will compete in Rio, but that number is expected to grow to 37 once the finalised number is confirmed before the flag presentation by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday.

“We are sending fewer athletes to Rio than four years ago at the London Olympics, but the difference is not big,” said Fok. “But I would say the standard of our athletes have improved a lot since the last Games, but qualifying is also getting more difficult.”

Fok said he would not name our best medal hopes as he didn’t want to put extra pressure on the athletes.

But he agreed that Hong Kong was strong in events such as like track cycling and table tennis and that Hong Kong will be sending their largest ever badminton squad for the Games with seven shuttlers qualified in four events.