Most Canadians think corruption and doping have tarnished the spirit of the Olympic Games, according to a new study by Angus Reid.
The not-for-profit research firm conducted an online survey between July 26 and July 29, asking 1516 Canadians about their views on the upcoming Rio Olympics.
It found 83% of people said ongoing scandals had diminished what the games are supposed to be about and 71% say the International Olympic Committee is a corrupt organization.
Furthermore, an overwhelming 81% of respondents said the Olympic Games are now more about corporate sponsorships and commercialism than athletic competition.
Zika virus fears
The Rio Olympics, due to start on Friday, have been plagued by concerns over pollution, doping, and perhaps most notably, the Zika virus.
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The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, sexual contact, pregnancy and blood transfusion, can be fatal to adults and cause birth defects in unborn babies.
The recent outbreak of the virus in Brazil, and its pandemic spread across the Americas and the Pacific, has been declared an international public health emergency. Despite that, the Rio Olympics will go ahead as planned – but that hasn’t stopped many of the world’s top athletes deciding to forego the event, including Milos Raonic.
According to the Angus Reid survey, Canadians have taken a dim view of the decision to go ahead with the Rio Olympics amid the Zika virus outbreak. Some 55% of respondents said they would advise athletes in all sports not to attend the games because of concerns they might contract Zika virus.
The issue of pollution has also proven controversial in Rio; Guanabara Bay, where many of the open water events are taking place, has been described as a “a toxic stew.” Unsurprisingly then, 69% of survey respondents said they would also urge an athlete competing in an open-water event in Rio not to attend.
Russian doping scandal
As if that wasn’t enough, the Rio Olympics also comes in the wake of the Russian doping scandal, which resulted in some – but not all – Russian athletes being banned from the games.
A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency found the Russian government and intelligence officials faked doping tests at the summer and winter Olympics since 2011.
In the aftermath, the IOC refused to outright ban Russia from the Rio Olympics, allowing each sport’s ruling body to decide what to do.
As it turns out, Canadians seem to agree, according to the Angus Reid survey.
Some 74% of respondents didn’t want to see a blanket ban on Russian athletes competing in Rio, saying only those caught doping should be barred.
And of course, respondents also had faith in their national team, with 79% saying Canadian Olympians don’t cheat in competition and play by the rules.
An apathetic Olympics?
If you’ve been feeling apathetic about the Rio Olympics, you’re not alone. Overall, the study found, most Canadians are less enthused by the Rio games than previous summer games.
Some 53% of respondents said they would be following the Rio Olympics, compared to 60% who said they followed the London and Beijing games.
That may be because of the Zika virus, the pollution, the perceived corruption or the doping – or it may just be because Canada does better at winter Olympics instead.
Asked outright which Olympic games they look forward to most, 43% of respondents said winter, and 32% said neither, leaving the summer games trailing with bronze at 25%.