By Bernard Okumu
Kenya Tuesday threatened to pull out of this year’s Rio Olympics unless it got assurances they would not be exposed to the ZIKA virus outbreak in Brazil.
National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino says they will not risk taking Kenyans to Rio if the mosquito-borne disease which is linked to severe birth defects reaches epidemic levels.
Kenya was expected to be one of the star performers at Rio, fielding some of the best middle and long-distance runners in the world.
Kenya did boycott the 1976 in Montreal and the Moscow Olympic games in 1980 in solidarity with other nations to protest the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.
Last week the World Health Organization declared the virus a global public health emergency. Brazilian authorities insist there will be no risk to athletes and spectators, except pregnant women, when the Rio Games take place in August.
The International Olympic Committee says it is in close contact with organisers, while Olympic venues will be inspected daily in the lead-up to and during the Games.
Kenya topped the medal table at last year’s World Athletics Championships and the country’s absence would be severely felt on the track as they boast many of the best middle and long-distance runners in the world.
They won eleven Olympic medals at London 2012, all in athletics, and David Rudisha, one of the sport’s biggest stars, would be denied an opportunity to defend his 800m Olympic title if Kenya opt out of the Rio Olympics.