Days after the head of the International Olympic Committee identified Rio de Janeiro’s polluted waterways as the No. 1 challenge facing the 2016 Olympics, an Associated Press investigation revealed just how dangerously filthy these waters really are.
The AP tested the water and found that Guanabara Bay, Copacabana beach, and Rodrigo de Freitas Lake — all of which will host watersports events next summer — aren’t safe for swimming or boating, and contain concentrations of viruses that are “roughly equivalent to raw sewage.”
“As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach,” the AP reports.
The pollution is the result of untreated human waste pouring into the waterways. It has been a public health issue in Rio for decade, but with the world’s biggest sporting event 12 months away, Rio’s water is literally being put under the microscope.
Looking at recent photos from these polluted venues, it’s alarming that they will be hosting the Olympics in 12 months.
But the waterway was one of the locations where the AP found dangerous levels of virus concentration.
Athletes who ingest three teaspoons of the water are 99% likely to get infected, scientists told the AP.
Rio's mayor called the failure of his city to use the Olympics to fix its water sanitation infrastructure as a 'shame' and a 'missed opportunity.'
One water expert told the AP that athletes should go to Rio early and expose themselves to the viruses so their bodies can build up an immunity.
Sailor David Hussl told the AP about his health issues while training, 'It's always one day completely in bed and then usually not sailing for two or three days.'
Last spring, Rio's mayor downplayed the pollution, telling CNN, 'The Olympics are also in a time that has very little rain, then this amount of debris that comes from five municipalities in the metropolitan region, with poor sanitation, is also controllable... I do not see as a problem for the Olympics.'
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