Farah to focus on racing not Zika virus

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Eugene (United States) (AFP)

Reigning 10,000 metre world champion Mo Farah says predictions of traffic chaos didn't ground the London Olympics to a halt and the Zika virus shouldn't stop the Rio Games from being a success.

The 33-year-old Farah, who is considered the most dominant long distance runner in the world, said he is trying to focus on getting ready for the Olympics and not worry about health problems that might arise.

"Before the London Olympics there was a lot of things said like 'they weren't ready and the traffic was going to be bad' and there was none of that. It was the best Olympics ever," said Great Britain's Farah who plans to take his family members with him to Brazil.

"All I know is my family and I are all going," he said after winning his fifth career 10,000 metre race at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon at the weekend.

An open letter by 150 doctors and scientists Friday called on officials to shift the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro because of the Zika virus.

The letter to the World Health Organization, signed by doctors and researchers at leading universities around the world, expressed worry that officials are not adequately protecting the public against the danger posed by Zika. WHO has since rejected the idea of moving or postponing the Games.

"I don't think they will do that," Farah said of moving the Games. "As an athlete I don't want to think about anything other than I am going to be racing. My first race is the 18th of August. I need to concentrate and that is it.

"At the end of the day, things will take care of itself."

The Olympics and Paralympics, set for August 5 through September 18, "will take place during Brazil's wintertime when there are fewer active mosquitoes and the risk of being bitten is lower," WHO said this month.

Vin Lananna, USA Olympic track and field coach, said he has some worries about the Zika virus but is leaving the major decisions to the medical experts.

- 'Big concern' -

"It is a big concern for all of us," Lananna said Saturday in at the Prefontaine. "Whenever you have potential safety concerns for the athletes it is something to be concerned about."

Like Farah, Lananna said there are questions and concerns going into every Olympics.

"I am not sure I have seen any Olympics Games that has not had a controversy," he said.

Zika, which can cause birth defects including a devastating syndrome known as microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains, can be introduced to a new region when a local mosquito picks it up from an infected human.

Canadian steeplechase record holder Matthew Hughes said he told his parents to stay home in Oshawa, Ontario because of the Zika virus.

"I don't want my parents to go," Hughes said. "It is a shame for people like me who are going to their first Olympics and all this is going on in the background."

Hughes, who finished seventh in the mile race at the Prefontaine, said Canadian officials are urging their athletes to take precautions by giving them a list of vaccines.

"They have advised us to take medication and update our vaccines," he said.