The Olympic Games are quickly approaching, but it seems Rio de Janeiro officials weren’t able to clean up their waterways in time as a new report has revealed that swimmers are almost “certain” to contract viruses from the filthy muck.
The Associated Press surveyed the aquatic Olympic and Paralympic venues over the course of 16 months and found extremely high levels of viruses and bacteria in the waters from pollution and human waste.
Not only are nearly 1,500 athletes at risk, but tourists looking to explore the Rio beaches could also find themselves “violently ill” after being exposed to the water.
According to the study, the water’s viral levels are 1.7 million times what would be considered alarming in the United States and Europe.
AP suggests that all it takes is three teaspoons of the filthy liquid to infect swimmers and others with the dangerous viruses festering in it.
Some of the risks associated with ingesting the water include stomach and respiratory infections, and possibly even heart and brain inflammation.
AP does note, however, that other factors — including the strength of one’s immune system — play into whether people actually become ill, though the high contamination levels make sickness incredibly likely.
In light of these findings, athletes have taken precautions including preemptively taking antibiotics, bleaching oars, and preparing plastic suits and gloves to limit contact with the water.
Meanwhile, the thousands of tourists expected to make their way to Rio are offered one crucial point of advice: “Don’t put your head underwater.”
According to The Independent, the most contaminated points are the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where Olympic rowing will take place, and the Gloria Marina — the starting point for the sailing races.
Despite researchers’ findings and the fact that Rio’s own officials have acknowledged the horrible condition of their waterways, Olympic organizers maintain that it is safe for athletes and visitors.
Unfortunately, Rio’s contamination problem dates back decades. It has been a longstanding issue before the city became home to the Olympics, but the spotlight has only been shined on it amid the highly anticipated sporting event.
This problem will certainly not be fixed by the time Opening Ceremony takes place on August 5 — that much is for sure. But, perhaps by raising enough awareness, athletes and tourists will be cognizant of protecting themselves while in Rio.
Furthermore, exposing these terrible conditions to the world could spark more substantial efforts to change it for the suffering residents who have to live in it day in and day out.
Banner Photo Credit: Reuters