Which is terrible news for Olympic swimmers, sailors, rowers and canoers, who will have the added obstacle of not dying in order to win a medal this year.
So far efforts like bleaching equipment, showering and taking preemptive antibiotics have failed: One German sailor, Erik Heil, was already reportedly hospitalized this year after contracting MRSA during an Olympics trial in August. Another 4o rowers reportedly fell sick during a Junior Rowing championship the same month.
“I have never in my life had infections on the legs. Never!” Heil wrote after his hospitalization. “I assume I picked that up at the test regatta. The cause should be the Marina da Glória where there is a constant flow of waste water from the city’s hospitals.”
And plans to move the events further out into the water seem futile, at best. According to the AP, which just published the results of a new round of testing, the water is just as polluted as far as a kilometer out from the shoreline.
The AP’s first published results were based on samples taken along the shores of the lagoon where rowing and canoeing events will be held. Other samples were drawn from the marina where sailors enter the water and in the Copacabana Beach surf, where marathon and triathlon swimming will take place. Ipanema Beach, popular with tourists and where many of the expected 350,000 foreign visitors will take a dip during the games, was also tested.
Since then, the AP expanded its testing to include offshore sampling sites inside Olympic sailing courses in Guanabara Bay and in the middle of the lagoon where rowing and canoeing lanes were located during recent test events.
The tests found the lagoon and bay to be consistently virus-laden throughout, but it also captured a spike in the bacterial fecal coliforms in the lagoon — to over 16 times the amount permitted under Brazilian law.
An expert tells the news outlet athletes “who ingest three teaspoons of water” during their events have a 99 percent chance of catching a virus. Happy sails!