Olympic sailors, rowers shrug off reports of Rio's polluted waters

Thu Jul 30, 2015 2:47pm EDT
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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Sailors and rowers were not worried about getting sick during the Rio Olympics next year despite reports that waters to be used for events have pollution levels equivalent to raw sewage, competitors said on Thursday.

Tests commissioned by the Associated Press found levels of disease-causing viruses as much as 1.7 million times the level that would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.

The International Olympic Committee reacted by reiterating that the health and welfare of athletes was its top priority. The IOC said it was in constant talks with organizers about how to ensure the waters were clean enough for competition.

"For example, we know that proactive measures around the Guanabara Bay - such as closing landfills, reducing industrial pollution, increasing water treatment works, and reducing floating garbage - are being taken and implemented by the local authorities," the IOC said in a statement.

"We have had reassurances from the WHO (World Health Organization) and others that there is no significant risk to athlete health."

Sailors and rowers familiar with the Olympic waters concurred and said they were not concerned.

“Brazilians haven't caught anything," Olympic gold medalist Marcelo Ferreira said. "I have never had any health problems sailing in the Guanabara Bay."

"The problem with the Guanabara Bay has been dragging on for 30 years, since I was a child. There's no point in going on about the quality of the water, the Olympics are going to be in Rio no matter what and so this subject is dead for me."

A representative for British sailors currently in Rio for a test event said the UK competitors were also not too worried.   Continued...

Men work on the construction site of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games athletes village in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes