Concerns that water pollution will endanger athletes at the Olympic Games in Rio next summer have escalated to include protests and claims from athletes that they have already fallen ill.
“A flotilla of more than 30 boats and watercraft has cruised across Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay to protest against water pollution with a year to go before the 2016 Olympics. The protesters made the 12km (7-mile) journey to highlight high levels of bacteria in the bay,” the BBC reported.
Some athletes are supporting the protests. The Brazilian sailor and Olympic medalist Isabel Swan is among them. “She competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and says the area used for sailing in China had problems with a large algae bloom but this was dealt with two months ahead of the competition,” the report said.
She told the BBC: “It’s important that we can leave a legacy for our children and for Brazilian people. It was very important to bring the Olympic Games to Rio, but we weren’t able to clean the bay. I want to create a movement that will inspire people to defend Guanabara Bay and help the government make a real commitment to cleaning it up.”
Athletes may already be falling ill from exposure to water in Rio, according to the Associated Press:
South Korean wind surfer Wonwoo Cho got his first ride in an ambulance the other day, taken to a Rio de Janeiro hospital with dehydration, vomiting, a headache and dizziness. Cho is one of four athletes to have “officially” fallen ill so far at the week’s Olympic sailing test event in Rio de Janeiro’s polluted Guanabara Bay. Officials acknowledge the reporting is incomplete with many teams and some of the 300 athletes skittish about disclosing illnesses. The 20-year-old Cho on Wednesday was back to “50-60 per cent” strength and out training, 24 hours after his hospital stay. He said he doesn’t know “the exact reason why I got so sick.”
Contamination “may force the Brazilian city to give up hosting 2016 Olympic events planned at iconic beach venues,” World Magazine reported.
If conditions remain as they are, athletes will be “swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games,” according to a major Associated Press investigation.
The investigation revealed “dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues — results that alarmed international experts and dismayed competitors training in Rio, some of whom have already fallen ill with fevers, vomiting and diarrhea,” the report continued.
“In the three water venues for Olympic games, tests [commissioned by the AP] found levels of human adenovirus roughly equal to that seen in raw sewage. Global water experts who examined AP’s data said the water is not safe for swimming or boating,” Newser explained.