August 4, 2016 11:19 am
Updated: August 4, 2016 4:32 pm

Rio 2016: Why many Canadians say they won’t watch the upcoming Olympics

WATCH ABOVE: Team Canada officials talk Russian doping, pollution, and medal expectations

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The lead up to the Rio Olympics has been plagued by fears over the Zika virus, shocking reports on water pollution, and brutal police crackdowns, and now, it seems, those problems have left some Canadians feeling unenthusiastic about the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, a new survey suggests.

The Angus Reid Institute survey found just 13 per cent of Canadians say they’re “very interested” in the upcoming Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, a significant drop compared to past games.

And 53 per cent of respondents said they’ll be paying attention this year compared to 60 per cent who say they followed previous summer games in London (2012) and Beijing (2008).

WATCH: IOC adamant water safe for athletes

Brazilian Olympic organizers have had to deal not only with health and safety concerns ahead of the opening ceremonies, but also had to contend with a doping scandal involving the Russian Olympic team, which led The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to call for a total ban on Russian athletes competing in the 2016 games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, decided against it.

“All Olympic Games seem to have some amount of scandal or concern before they start,” said, Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. “With Rio it’s been almost a grab bag of concerning news coming out of it, take your pick. Big health concerns are clearly driving some of the worry and a little bit of reticence around levels of excitement.”

Other reasons why Canadians say they won’t be watching this year are:

  • Most Canadians prefer the winter Olympics: When asked which Olympic Games they look forward to most, 43 per cent of respondents said winter, 32 per cent said “neither” and just 25 per cent chose summer.
  • 81 per cent who said the Games “have become more about corporate sponsorships and commercialism than the athletes and competitions themselves.”
  • 71 per cent say the IOC is a corrupt organization.

According to the Angus Reid Institute, a possible reason for the lower interest in these summer games is that Team Canada doesn’t perform well and is much more competitive in the winter. While Team Canada finished first in medal count in Vancouver’s Winter Olympics in 2010, and third at Sochi in 2014, it finished way back in 35th at the 2012 London summer games.

READ MORE: Despite Brazil arrests, terror threat remains low, say experts and officials

An in-depth report from the Associated Press described Guanabara Bay, where many of Rio’s open water competitions are taking place, as contaminated with raw human sewage and dead bodies that could put nearly 1,400 athletes at risk of getting violently ill. One expert even warned visitors to Rio’s famed beaches: “Don’t put your head under water.”

The survey found that a strong majority of Canadians (69 per cent) say that if a friend or family member hypothetically qualified for the Rio games for an open-water event they would like to see that person stay home rather than risk the polluted waters.

READ MORE: How dangerous is Rio de Janeiro? What anyone travelling to Rio 2016 should know

Another 55 per cent majority of Canadians say they would want a friend or family member who is an athlete to “stay home” due to the risk of Zika virus.

“When you see more than half of Canadians saying that they would tell an athlete they knew or were related to to stay home because of Zika and really the majority saying stay home to an [open water competitor] that they knew, that’s a level of concern we haven’t seen,” Kurl said.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted the online survey from July 26 to 29 among a representative randomized sample of 1,516 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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