If there’s ever been a pool that doesn’t exactly need a lifeguard present, you’d think it would be at Rio’s Olympic Aquatic Center. After all, Olympic swimmers are at much greater risk of missing the podium than they are of needing to be rescued from the water.
But thanks to Brazilian law, which requires lifeguards patrolling any pool larger than 20 x 20 feet, a fleet of lifeguards have been patrolling the world’s best swimmers throughout the opening days of the Games.
The lifeguards at the Olympic Aquatic Center do have a good sense of humour about their jobs.
“We joked to each other, ‘We’re here to save him!'” Danielle Martelote, the lifeguard supervisor at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, s
aid of Michael Phelps. “But we hope and expect that all the athletes will be fine.”
Not surprisingly, they have often been captured looking rather bored:
Still, in the off-chance that something truly dangerous were to happen to a swimmer, the lifeguards are present and ready.
“It’s a one-in-a-million type of event, but we’re prepared,” Anderson Fertes, a 39-year-old lifeguard at the Olympics, told The New York Times. “I don’t think they will need us, but we’ll be on the lookout just in case.”
Swimming may be the Olympic sport where lifeguards are the least necessary, but it isn’t the only one where they are present. Water polo, diving, triathlon, synchronised swimming, and whitewater kayaking all feature lifeguards on alert. The sailing and windsurfing events have them, too.
And it’s a good thing they’re there. Water polo is incredibly aggressive, while the likelihood of a concussion (or worse) in synchronised swimming is surprisingly high. Needing a lifeguard at a diving event is rather self-explanatory.
If nothing else, the lifeguards patrolling the Aquatic Center have the best view of the best swimmers in the world. And when the alternative is blowing your whistle to scream at kids running on the pool deck, or drowning each other, I think they will take it.
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