Sailors compete with constant health fear in Rio waters

Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:24am EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - The bad water quality at Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay puts Paralympic sailors in constant fear of their health during competitions with organizers having failed to live up to their promises, Paralympic champion Heiko Kroeger said on Tuesday.

The experienced German sailor, who won a gold medal at the Sydney 2000 and silver at the London 2012 Paralympics, said sailors in wheelchairs would be especially vulnerable in the polluted waters during the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics in the Brazilian city.

"Usually when you are sailing you open your mouth and take in some water to refresh yourself," Kroeger told Reuters a day after returning from a competition in Rio.

"But in Rio last week, mouths and noses stayed shut and heads turned away from the spray," he said.

"I have been sailing a long time but I have never seen that happening.

"There is a constant fear in our heads, a fear that you could get sick," said Kroeger, who also sailed in the bay back in September.

"That of course affects the competition because you know that if you get sick you are out."

When Rio won the right in 2009 to stage the Olympics and Paralympics, the city had promised to cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent but has since confirmed it will not meet that target.   Continued...

Dead fish lie on the shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes