We are only five months from the Summer Olympics in Rio and it is looking more and more like one of the big stories during the games will be the health risks associated with the events that will take place on the polluted Rio waterways.
When the Olympics were first awarded to Rio in 2009, only 12% of the sewage entering Guanabara Bay was being treated. Rio Olympic officials set a goal of having 80% of the sewage treated before the games started. Seven years later, a spokesperson has confirmed that they will fall well-short of their goal.
Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio Olympics, spoke with the media on Tuesday and noted that the amount of sewage that will be treated will be “at least 60%” during the games.
“The Guanabara Bay will be at least 60% of treated sewage,” Andrada said, via globo.com. “The target was 80%, it will not be possible to reach this goal, but 60% is a step forward. When we received the Games, only 12% of sewage was treated.”
Andrada also noted that the water is being tested daily, and will continue to be tested daily during the games. He left open the possibility that the sailing courses could be altered if needed.
In July, one year before the games, the Associated Press reported that tests showed “disease-causing viruses directly linked to human sewage at levels up to 1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the U.S. or Europe.”
While that number may be lower now, it is almost certainly still well-above a level that would be acceptable elsewhere. As a result, many of the athletes are going to extremes to protect themselves, including the use of plastic overalls, bleaching equipment, taking multiple showers, and using preemptive antibiotics.
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