July 7, 2016 / 2:22 PM / 3 years ago

Spain's Olympic president Blanco calms fears over Zika

(Reuters) - The president of the Spanish Olympic committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, has reassured the country’s athletes and fans traveling to Rio de Janeiro that the Zika virus “is under control”.

Spain’s most famous basketball player, NBA’s Pau Gasol, expressed concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus several weeks ago but has since committed to playing for the national team.

Blanco, who has been at the helm of the COE since 2005, said his committee had been hard at work making sure that the athletes were cared for and well informed.

“It’s under control,” Blanco told AS newspaper when asked about the Zika virus. “We are going to be the best Olympic committee without a doubt. We have help from the Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) in Barcelona. We will monitor our athletes individually with a mobile application.”

Blanco said 304 competitors were scheduled to compete for Spain in Brazil.

“In Beijing, we had 280 and in London, 282. This is a success. We have to take into account that there are two new sports, golf and also rugby, in which we have managed to qualify the men and the women’s teams.

“We have 162 men and 142 women. We are very close to the parity that COI says.”

Spain won 17 medals in London four years ago, one fewer than at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“We expect good results but I don’t want to be too optimistic,” Blanco said.

Brazil is suffering a recession and high crime rates, infrastructure delays and political unrest have raised questions about how successful the Rio Games will be.

“In the end, the Games will be great,” Blanco said. “The Olympic village is beautiful and the athletes will be very well looked after.”

Reporting by Adriana Garcia; editing by Clare Lovell

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