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.