With all the concern over the infested water around Rio de Janeiro, people are overlooking the air and land. But as it turns out, the polluted waters are the least of Olympians’ concern.
The Olympic venue city’s air is much deadlier than previously expected and the government’s promise to clean up the air before the games start has not been fulfilled.
Rio’s authorities have been inundated with complaints after several reports showed high amount of fecal matter, garbage and super bacteria in the waters where swimmers will be competing, but little attention has been given to the air that, researchers claim, far exceeds the World Health Organization’s acceptable levels of the hazardous particulate matter — 75 percent of which is caused by the toxic exhaust fumes of 2.7 million vehicles in the city, according to Rio state's environmental protection agency, Inea.
In fact, since 2008, Rio’s air has been two or three times over the limit imposed by WHO and thousands of Rio’s residents die each year because of complications including asthma, lung cancer, heart attack, strokes and severe allergies.
Paulo Saldiva, a University of Sao Paulo pathologist and member of the WHO committee that set tougher global pollution standards in 2006, calculated an estimated 5,400 people died in Rio due to air pollution in 2014, the most recent year of which data is available.
“This is definitely not ‘Olympic air,’” said Saldiva. “A lot of attention has been paid to Rio's water pollution, but far more people die because of air pollution than the water.”
Conditions are only slightly less dangerous on land.
The Golf Channel recently investigated the Golf course created at the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio and have found out the plains are rife with capybaras, monkeys, sloths, vultures, burrowing owls — and 5-foot long alligators, caimans and deadly boa constrictors.
Olympic athletes and tourists have been warned about the threat of hungry reptiles lurking near the 2016 Games venue.
Dr. Ricardo Freitas, a leading reptile expert, said the city’s population of alligators could pose a safety hazard. The deadly creatures normally hide in swampy areas near the Olympics complex but are seen in full view on the banks of the Lagoinha das Taxas river, which lies a mere 15 minutes drive from the athletes’ village.
Hitting sand traps will be the least of the golfers’ worries if these huge reptiles come out during a game. However, the International Olympic Committee has arranged to have a team of at least five biologists at the venue to move the caimans and alligators out of the way during the match.
But no measures have yet been announced if a boa constrictor decides to attack.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters