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Rio Olympic Sailors 'Almost Certain To Come Into Contact With Disease-Causing Viruses'

16th August 2015

#Rio2016 - Olympics sailing hopefuls' funding concerns may be among the least of their concerns with the worrying news that Rio's sailing waters are "so contaminated with human faeces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete".

That's according to an Associated Press investigation into the quality of water at the Olympic sailing venue, which found levels of viruses detected up to 1.7 million times those allowed at California beaches, as previously reported on

The alarming results come from what the AP describes as "the first independent comprehensive testing for both viruses and bacteria" at Rio's Olympic sites - which found not a single venue safe for swimming boating events.

That includes the notoriously polluted Guanabara Bay, where all sailors will compete, as well as the rowing and canoeing venue at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where thousands of dead fish clogged up the waters earlier this year.

And the AP report emphasises that athletes are "almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses" in a city where "the stench of raw sewage still greets travellers touching down" at the airport.

But is it all such doom and gloom for the Brazilian city's hosting of next summer's Olympics? Internationally renowned sailor Skip Novak argues that the health risks, while real, are being overstated.

Writing in Yachting World, Novak says that while the International Olympic Committee's belief in Rio's promises to clean Guanabara Bay for the Games is "beyond the definition of naivety", the fact of the matter is that "[regattas] take place there on a regular basis. People swim in it. People scuba dive in it. To my knowledge, no sailors have died because of it."

And while global ocean clean-up efforts may give some false hope that Rio's waters might be spotless next summer given more effort, Novak's philosophy is more relaxed.

"Precautions will have to be taken," he writes. "But hey, this is Brazil and if there is one thing the Brazilians can do is create a carnival atmosphere out of a controversial situation. As usual with all things Brazilian, it will somehow be right on the day."

Yachting World has more HERE.

Published in Olympic
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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