Athletes in 2016 Olympics in Rio to Be Swimming, Boating in 'Basically Raw Sewage,' Study Finds

Summer Olympics: Water in Rio 'Basically Raw Sewage'
Pollution floats in Guanabara Bay
Matthew Stockman/Getty

07/30/2015 AT 05:00 PM EDT

What's your favorite event at the Summer Olympics? The Unidentifiable Pile of Refuse Jump? The Dead Rat Dodge? How about the 100-Yard Dash to the Shower Because You've Been Swimming in Garbage?

Well, they'll all be happening next year in Rio de Janeiro, according to the Associated Press. The agency conducted comprehensive testing of the water at several Olympic sites and found it contaminated with alarmingly high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage. Four rounds of testing at three Olympic water venues concluded that not one of them was safe for swimming or boating.

Some tests revealed viruses up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach, The Guardian reports. "What you have there is basically raw sewage," John Griffith, a marine biologist at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, told the paper.

The medical director of the International Olympic Committee has maintained that everything is proceeding as planned and that all the venues will be safe for competition, a sentiment echoed by Brazilian officials. But it's unclear how that's going to happen, since most of Brazil's sewage is not treated, and open-air ditches carrying waste run into streams and rivers connected to the Olympic sites. Also, neither the IOC nor the Brazilian government is testing for viruses, only for bacteria.



Competitors are already worried about the effects. Ivan Bulaja, the Croatian-born coach of Austria's sailing team, told The Guardian that his team has lost training days after falling ill. "This is by far the worst water quality we've ever seen in our sailing careers," he added.

"Brazilian authorities promised the moon in order to win their Olympic bid and as usual they're not making good on those promises," Mario Moscatelli, a biologist who has spent 20 years lobbying for a cleanup of Rio's waterways, concluded to the U.K. paper. "I'm sad but not surprised."

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