Athletes shrug off pollution issues at Rio Olympic test

Sat Aug 1, 2015 7:44pm EDT
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By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Athletes, coaches and organizers at a major test event for next year's Olympic Games shrugged off a simmering dispute over safety at watersports venues by diving into the controversial waters off Copacabana Beach on Saturday.

The first day of the triathlon world championship event saw para-athletes swim in the Atlantic waters and bike and run in the streets nearby.

"I'm not concerned about the water," said Alison Patrick, a blind British athlete who won the P-5 women's' triathlon in partnership with her sighted guide Grace France.

"The thing I noticed most was that the water was warm. I'm from Scotland and I'm used to much colder water."

The waters will be used for triathlon, ocean swimming and sailing events during next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the first to be held in South America.

Elite men's and women's triathlon events, scheduled for Sunday, offer qualifying spots for next year's Games.

Concern over the athletes' health in the waters arose last week after an Associated Press report showed viral and bacterial levels in the water are equivalent to those in raw sewage.

Rio de Janeiro's state environmental agency declared some waters near the swimming site unsuitable for bathing on Friday but the worries did not seem to bother most competitors.   Continued...

A man paddles on a stand up board on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes