BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Hope Solo is blaming the American media for spreading fear about the Zika virus and other problems ahead of the Rio Games.
Hoping to lead the U.S. to its fourth straight gold medal, Solo had expressed her own concerns before the Olympics.
“We haven’t made it to Rio yet and I have no idea what to expect in Rio, but it’s been beautiful here,” Solo said ahead of Wednesday’s opener against New Zealand, to be played in the same city where the U.S. men upset England in the 1950 World Cup.
“It’s a little bit unfortunate because I think the American media has been really tough on people of Brazil,” Solo said. “I feel a little bit bad because when you come here you learn for yourself. I think that we’ve been very hard on the local people.”
The Americans are trying to win a title for the second straight year following last year’s triumph in the Women’s World Cup. Solo, in her third Olympics, said it seemed problems in Brazil were being blown out of proportion by media in the U.S.
“You look back in 2004 in Greece, and the same thing there, bad publicity surrounding the games, and China as well,” said the 35-year-old from Richland, Washington. “I don’t know why, but we like to sensationalize everything and scare people and then … when the games go on, everything goes on as planned, ends up being a beautiful tournament. And I expect no less here.”
Solo said she expects “everything to be fine” by the time the team gets to Rio despite the widespread concerns related to the games, including Zika, water pollution, security and shoddy construction.
Solo said she came to Brazil well prepared, especially against Zika.
“I actually spoke to three different infectious disease doctors and specialists,” she explained. “I spoke to them on the phone with my husband as well, and we got to a point where we asked enough questions. We prepared ourselves as best as possible and we got to a level of being as comfortable as we possibly can be.
“I’m wearing mosquito repellent just in case, I know the odds are very small but you can never be too safe,” she added. “I’m at a point in my life that I just want to be safe.”
Before traveling to Brazil, Solo posted on Twitter a few photos showing her concerns about Zika, including one of her wearing a hat with mosquito netting that covered her entire head and neck. The image prompted criticism against her in Brazil and caused her to apologize when she arrived in the country.
“I heard that there were some negative responses here in Brazil,” she said. “I never would want to offend the host country. In fact, I’m cheering for Team USA, but besides Team USA, I’m going to be cheering for the host country. I’m very grateful for them for hosting the tournament. Honestly, everybody around here has been so just nice and genuine and it feels very warming to be here.”
Solo has been trying to avoid a trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges after a 2014 incident at her sister’s home, when the goalkeeper was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo said she was a victim in the altercation. Two months ago, an appeals court in Washington state rejected Solo’s request to avoid trial.
MORE: Olympic soccer schedule