"The water and Zika have been stories... but I don't know how big of a deal they'll become once we get into the actual competition," Lester Holt tells PEOPLE

By Rose Minutaglio Rebecca Sloane
August 08, 2016 11:35 AM
Heidi Gutman/NBC

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt says he wasn’t too worried about the list of issues plaguing Rio de Janeiro leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I’ve been to a lot of Olympics where there has been buildup about something horrible, like before Sochi there was concern about terrorism because of the proximity of Chechnya and before Athens there was great concern: ‘Would they be ready?’ ” Holt, 57, told PEOPLE ahead of the Opening Ceremonies. “And my experience tells me once the torch lights the caldron and the first games begin, that stuff kind of fades away.”

He adds, “The water and Zika have been stories, security has been a story, but I don’t know how big of a deal they’ll become once we get into the actual competition.”

And the journalist promises that his network is not “going to keep pounding on these stories if there’s nothing else to report.”

Holt – who admitted that he can’t wait to watch Simone Biles and Michael Phelps compete – says he ultimately feels safe in Rio.

“I think we have to assume now in our world we live in that every big gather is A potential target and that’s the reality that we live in and most of the world lives in. We’ve been doing a number of stories on security, they’ve got an enormous security operation,” he said. “I’ll take all the usual personal precautions I take anywhere in the world… But it doesn’t cripple me and I don’t think it will cripple many people. These are huge events and we want to be a part of it and we count on the professionals to secure it and it sounds like they’re in pretty good shape down there.”

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

Safe, yes, but Holt admitted he isn’t taking the Zika virus threat lightly.

“The fact that Brazil has seen a lot of cases is very real,” he explained. “It is winter time down there so we’re told there should be fewer mosquitoes and I think people need to be aware of it because I’ll be putting on my bug repellent every day as a precaution and trying to wear as many long sleeve shirts as I possibly can.

He added, “I think everyone has to take it seriously and you have to weigh your own sense of risk and certainly where you are in life in terms of family planning and those sorts of things.”

“There’s a lot they still don’t know about Zika.”

Lester Holt will be anchoring Nightly News from Rio through August 19.

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