22. Feb, 2016

Polluted areas in Rio a health threat for coming Olympics.

Much  of the sewage  of Rio de Janeiro, a city of 12 million people, empties raw into its lakes, rivers and beaches.  The more than  100 favelas  dump their garbage  in little rivers connecting with lakes  and sea water of the bay surrounding Rio.  This holds also for the  waters  were about 1,400  athletes will be  competing during the Olympic games in the summer of 2016. Sailing or wind  surfing in the waters near Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay, swimming off Copacabana beach, and canoeing and rowing on the waters of Lake  Rodrigo de Freitas.

It’s not only the rubbish that’s drifting everywhere.  Experts who conducted tests*  also found high counts of active and infectious human adenoviruses, which multiply in the intestinal and respiratory tracts of people.  The latest water quality report, issued by the state environmental authority, said 'the area was inappropriate for swimming due to the concentration of fecal coliforms'.  Some experts  have  made a  rough estimate  of the risk of getting infected by a bacteria  or virus  by swallowing three teaspoons of water from the polluted area, and they estimated it to be around  99%

State and local authorities repeatedly promised to clean up the city’s waterways and Olympic water sites  before the coming summer  games. And the medical director of the International Olympic Committee declared all was ‘on track for providing safe competing venues’.  But  not much  seems to has happened so far, and suspicions rise that the billions of dollars provided to state and city officials  to clean up the mess probably ended up in the pockets of the wrong people.

Athletes are also getting worried. But they must me careful not to annoy their sponsors who are anxious that negative signals  might  interfere with their business interests. Australian sailer David Husse  who will participate in the games said he and his teammates always took precautions during their  training runs.  Like washing their faces immediately with bottled water when water splashed in their face,  and by taking  showers after they return to shore. And yet Hussl said he and others have fallen ill several times.   Windsurfers also have  expressed their concern about the risk to sail in these areas.   Dorian van Rijsselberghe, Dutch champion  and future surfer in the Olympic arena  reported that  their training  site in  Guanabara Bay was  loaded with garbage like numerous pieces of plastic, oil patches, carcasses and  even furniture  and refrigerators drifting in the water. Participating countries now also seem to become nervous  and are stressing the need for a clean up of the Olympic site before the start of the games in August. But time is running fast and the cause of the pollution in Rio is both structural and immense.  Sofar the chances that the International Olympic Committee  will keep its promise do not look very good.