Protecting 2004 visitors and athletes from mosquitoes

THESSALONIKI – In 2000, when the Sydney authorities altered the plans for some Olympic venues so as avoid disturbing a colony of frogs in a small wetland, some spoke of «excessive environmental sensitivity.» But Olympic Games organizers must take the environment into account and Athens in 2004 can be no exception. Some time ago a battle against bloodthirsty night visitors whose number and irritation value could spoil some of the events organized for the Games. The fight against mosquitoes, flies, other insects and rats, was planned last year with ecological factors in mind. The main anti-insect campaign began in early June and will continue until early October at five venues to achieve a goal of which few athletes and visitors will be aware, but which – if successful – will deserve a medal for keeping away irritating pests. The main Olympic complex at OAKA, Aghios Cosmas, the Olympic Village, the Markopoulo Equestrian Center, and Schinias are the five Olympic venues which will enjoy the protection of the latest pest-control methods. The time at which the Games are being held, their high profile abroad and the presence of hundreds of thousands of demanding visitors with high environmental standards make pest control a must. Most of the effort will be concentrated on the rowing venue at Schinias, Athens 2004’s environment manager George Kazantzopoulos told Kathimerini. He explained that nothing must be allowed to disturb the ecosystem in the national park. This why the task of destroying mosquito larvae is being carried out by the use of an internationally accepted organic larvicide spray (BTI) which is being used for the first time on such a large scale. So far the rules have been highly satisfactory, as samples show that larva concentrations are very low, and are expected to fall to zero by the time the Games are held. Spraying (if deemed necessary it will be done aerially by a mechanical kite or helicopter) will occur after an ecological mapping of areas where mosquitoes reproduce, aerial photography and documentation of breeding grounds, and the creation of operational maps. The second major front is the Equestrian Center at Markopoulo where, in addition to mosquitoes, flies are a problem. Dealing with mosquitoes is essential because they are carriers of the West Nile virus, which they can transmit to horses. Though the virus has not caused death to people or animals in Greece, it has done so in countries such as the US. The only certain method of dealing with the problem is to completely eliminate all mosquitoes from the area. Manholes, drains, waste-processing facilities, streams and other possible breeding grounds at Markopoulo, around OAKA, and at the Olympic Village and Aghios Cosmas are being redocumented and included in the thousands of sample points which are being observed by teams of specialists. If mosquito breeding grounds are found, they will be included on the operational map. As for the other Olympic venues, most contracts with builders have included provisions for the extermination of pests and fungi before delivery, so problems are not expected.