Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — The celebration for the representatives from the 207 Olympic nations was brought to a screeching halt when Zika was mistakenly introduced as a nation during last night’s Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The incident occurred just after the handful of Zambia’s Olympic delegation exited the tunnel and made their way onto Maracanã Stadium’s playing surface. Compounding the embarrassment for the host country was that Brazil was due to enter the stadium last, just 3 countries later.
Instead of entering to raucous cries, Brazil’s athletes walked into mayhem as panic spread throughout the stadium. Thousands of people flooded for the exits. Several of the athletes made their way out of the stadium and headed back to the Olympic Village. Fortunately, only minor injuries were reported. NBC’s Bob Costas called the incident an “honest mistake,” later stating, “You can’t blame the local officials for not catching this one. When I heard Zika announced, I scrambled to find it in my notes, and just assumed it was a small country somewhere in Africa.”
In addition to the Zika virus scare, the 2016 Rio Olympics has also been marred with other controversies with facilities not completed on time, sanitary issues plaguing the outdoor venues, the collapse of a newly constructed bike path and boat ramp, and a human arm found floating in the Olympic sailing venue. While these issues have led to athletes refusing to compete and tourists staying home, not everybody is complaining. Business has been good for Hugo Lucas, a local entrepreneur who generally sells T-shirts to tourists. “During the 2014 World Cup, I almost went broke,” said Lucas. “But the Olympics have given me the opportunity to sell creative items. Right now my best selling items are Olympic branded mosquito nets and water filters.”
Once word spread to the street vendors what was happening inside of Maracanã Stadium, street vendors reportedly doubled their prices on health related items. So far, the most popular seller is a combination hat and mosquito head net that has “I went to the Rio Olympics and all I got was this lousy mosquito net” printed on the front.
In an unrelated incident, Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city from Corcovado Mountain was found covered in a gigantic mosquito net on Thursday. Many devout locals saw it as a sign from God, with one commenting that “Even Jesus doesn’t feel safe here anymore.” However, local officials dismissed it as an elaborate prank. Rio Mayor Eduardo da Costa Paes even noted, “They pulled off that prank better than we are pulling off the Olympics.