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Rio’s Dirty Water Sparks Health Concerns Over Olympic Water Events

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

While the world’s best amateur sailors are prepping themselves for a shot at gold in next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Sailing Federation (ISF) are hoping the city’s water sources will be clean enough to host the Games’ watercraft events.

In an Associated Press story published by the Star Tribune (Minn.), reporter Stephen Wade wrote that the WHO and the ISF will conduct their own tests to measure the levels of virus and other contaminants in Rios’ waters.

The origin of the story about the testing can be traced back to a statement the WHO sent to the AP,  in which the global organization expressed its desire to “widen the scientific base” of what types of dangers and pollutants are measured in the tests.

WHO has also advised the International Olympic Committee to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses. The risk assessment should be revised accordingly, pending the results of further analysis.

The U.S. News & World Report also ran the AP story, noting that concerns about the water also affect the Games’ open-water swimming event and its triathlon event.

ISF Chief Executive Officer Pete Sowrey said his concern isn’t just for sailors, but for “everyone who goes out into the water.”

I want to make sure that everyone who goes out in the water is as safe as possible and is given the right guidance and right security.

According to the AP report, some of the city’s waterways contain “dangerously high levels” of bacteria and viruses.

The problem, the story said, stems from untreated sewage water which flows down hillside waterways that feed into the main sources of water for several Olympic sports.

One intrepid competitor, Costa Rican triathlete Leonardo Chacon, said viruses or not, he’s can’t throw away the years of training he’s put into the upcoming Summer Games: “I can’t recuperate this investment any other way other than competing and winning the points that I need to win.”

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