And while the city seems to be ready to host the world’s biggest sporting event in most aspects, one glaring problem is standing out: the water at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic venues is rife with contamination.
According to a July 30 NPR report, the Associated Press commissioned water tests over a five-month period at Rio’s venues for swimming, rowing and other aquatic sports events. The tests revealed shocking levels of viruses and bacteria.
As a result, not one of the city’s Olympic venues is fit for swimming or boating, international experts say — and it may be too late to install adequate water filtration systems by next year. Many of Brazil’s own athletes have been training in these waters for months, under the impression that the water was safe.
“What you have there is basically raw sewage,” said John Griffith, a marine biologist working at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project who examined the AP tests independently. “It’s all the water from the toilets and the showers and whatever people put down their sinks, all mixed up, and it’s going out into the beach waters.”
In the Rodrigo de Freitas lake, for example, the AP tests revealed 14 million adenoviruses per liter to 1.7 billion per liter. In contrast, authorities in the U.S. would shut down areas with just 1,000 adenoviruses per liter, Griffith explained.
Still, despite its shocking water contamination problem, Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic organizers have no plans to move the events to venues with clean water. According to ESPN, organizers claimed this would put the athletes who have trained in the contaminated waters at a disadvantage.
Dr. Richard Budgett, the medical director for the International Olympic Committee, said the IOC will continue to monitor water quality at the facilities in the months leading up to the 2016 Olympics.
“Clearly there are going to be some individuals who have become infected, but it’s a matter of looking at the risk realistically and realizing there are going to be a lot of competitions on these venues,” he said. “We’ve got to hold things in perspective.”