Australian sailing pressures Rio over water pollution

Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:37pm EDT
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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's Olympic sailing boss Peter Conde has called on the sport to pressure Rio Olympics organizers to clean up water pollution ahead of next year's Games.

The water quality of Guanabara Bay, where Olympic sailing and other aquatic events will be held, has long been criticized and come under the microscope amid reports of athletes falling ill after competing there.

“It would be good if everyone in the sport kept the pressure onto the government to do what it really needs to do -- to tidy the place up," Conde said in comments published by News Ltd media on Sunday.

“We’re dealing with health and safety issues that are unusual for the sport to have to deal with."

Two international sailors, from South Korea and Germany, trained in Rio in August and contracted infections which they said came from the waters.

An independent study commissioned by the Associated Press and reported in July found the waters were so contaminated with bacteria and viruses from human sewage that athletes could become ill and unable to compete.

Rio organizers have repeatedly pledged to clean up the waters in time for the Games and played down reports of floating garbage and dead fish washing up on shores.

Australia's sailors, who won three gold medals at the London Olympics, would have to take extra precautions with their health at Rio next year, Conde said.

"It is clearly a priority area that we didn’t have at the last Games (in London) and it's not just about water quality and about getting sick," he said.   Continued...

Dead fish are pictured next to a rowing athlete as he attends a training session at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, in Rio de Janeiro April 13, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes