Princess Charlene Will Skip the Rio Games Amid Zika Fears: 'She Has Concerns – And So Do I,' Says Prince Albert

The royal mom "couldn't stand to be away from the babies for two weeks," Albert tells PEOPLE

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be without its highest-profile royal couple.

Monaco’s Princess Charlene has decided not to attend the Games in Brazil, and her husband Prince Albert will considerably shorten his own visit over health concerns.

A former Olympic swimmer, Charlene has decided to remain home with the couple’s 19-month-old twins, Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella.

“First, she has decided not to go because she couldn’t stand to be away from the babies for two weeks and they’re really not old enough to support the trip,” Albert tells PEOPLE.

Charlene is also worried about the Zika virus.

“She has important health concerns,” he says. “She doesn’t like what she’s been reading, hearing, about the Zika virus and some other health issues.”

Both past Olympic competitors, Charlene (a member of South Africa’s swim medley in 2000) and Albert (who competed in bobsleigh in several Winter Games) have been a fixture of both Winter and Summer Games for more than a decade. The couple’s first public appearance was at the 2006 Turin Winter Games ceremony, and while Albert will attend the IOC meetings and opening week events, he will curtail his visit to 10 days.

“Of course, I’m worried personally. Everyone – athlete or tourist – going there has to be,” he says.

“If I was a windsurfer or a sailor, I’d be worried. The waters on one of the dedicated area aren’t exactly pristine,” he adds. “Apparently, they found the broken pipe which was spewing sewage and solved the problem and its much better.

“But on what scale, I’m not sure.”

As a spectator, competitor and now an IOC board member, Albert began attending the Games in 1972. He says he holds “concern about a lot of things in Brazil’s preparations for the upcoming Games.

“There are a lot of political, economic and social concerns around the Games. I think the preparations for the Games haven’t turned out as expected. They’re having to be a little creative now I think in some of their solutions.

“They’ll just finish certain facilities at the last minute and that’s pretty much the same thing as Athens. I hope there won’t be organizational issues, traffic, security issues and I know they’ll be great Games, very festive, but there were a lot of headaches getting here. Not just for myself; just ask any of my colleagues.”

Given the enormous construction problems that have plagued recent Olympic host cities, would he support an effort to rotate the Games among a number of returning those cities?

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“That’s an idea but it goes against the Olympic spirit, against what Baron Pierre de Coubertin suggested,” he says. “Every country should have the possibility of bidding for the Olympic Games. The Games are supposed to be universal in allowing that opportunity. It hasn’t always been so, but in theory it’s a great idea.

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“These will be the first Olympic Games ever held in South America and I believe they should also go to Africa one day. But the greater problem is that the Games are now so large, their magnitude as an event so great, that not every city or country can support them.”

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