For almost two years we have been railing against the ridiculous state of affairs at Rio’s Olympic sailing venue, but official reactions from ISAF, the IOC and pretty much every other organization with an interest has been to plunge their heads deeply into sand. We’ve wondered how long they could go on without meaningful action, but a report published today may change all that.
Despite multiple reports that Rio 2016 officials have already failed on the ‘guarantee’ they made on the water quality of the olympic sailing and rowing venues for the 2016 games, local politicians are still disputing the science with bullshit stunts like this one, and credibility challenged statements like last month’s from Rio2016 organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada. Adrada said that Rio would “guarantee safe competition and we will guarantee the health of the athletes,” although it’s pretty clear that a guarantee from the Rio2016 Committee is worth about as much as a bucketfull of the shit at the water’s edge in Guanabara. And remember: They’ve already told us there’s no way in hell they’ll change the venue to a safer one…because dustbuster boats.
While the questionable value of Rio2016’s ‘guarantees’ is fairly obvious, quantifiable scientific data on just how nasty the water is was not; most national teams funded their own independent water quality tests, but judging from the official zeal with which those test results were guarded, there was some shit in there that no team wanted the public to see.
Those guarding the results have just learned what happens when you’re a little too good at hiding the truth, because the Associated Press got motivated enough to find the truth to spend a small fortune on it.
AP commissioned four rounds of testing in each of the three Olympic water venues and off Ipanema Beach. Their summary? “Not one water venue [is] safe for swimming or boating, according to global water experts.”
Multiple national officials over the past year have told us that their investigations were ‘inconclusive’ or ‘showed manageable levels’ or some other crock of shit designed to avoid making waves, so it was surprising to see such unquestionable lab results from the AP tests, which:
found high counts of active and infectious human adenoviruses, which multiply in the intestinal and respiratory tracts of people. These are viruses that are known to cause respiratory and digestive illnesses, including explosive diarrhea and vomiting, but can also lead to more serious heart, brain and other diseases.
The concentrations of the viruses in all tests were roughly equivalent to that seen in raw sewage — even at one of the least-polluted areas tested, the Copacabana Beach, where marathon and triathlon swimming will take place and where many of the expected 350,000 foreign tourists may take a dip.
Perhaps most importantly, the test results viral discoveries call into question all national teams’ strategies of disease prevention. Basically, you’re going to get sick if you spend any amount of time in the water or catching spray. From the report:
Kristina Mena, a U.S. expert in risk assessment for waterborne viruses, examined the AP data and estimated that international athletes at all water venues would have a 99 percent chance of infection if they ingested just three teaspoons of water — though whether a person will fall ill depends on immunity and other factors…Viruses can enter the body through the mouth, eyes, any orifice, or even a small cut.
The certainty of infection, and the risk of much nastier bugs they didn’t test for, creates a new problem for every official associated with the event; they can no longer claim that death/disease/complications/infection wasn’t foreseeable for their competitors. And under the laws of quite a few nations, that means they may be liable in court if and when the shit hits the fan. SA’s Legal Research Department isn’t sure whether this liability could extend to the directors or CEOs of national sailing teams, but if there’s one thing that can motivate action when even concern for the health and safety of competitors can’t, it’s the threat of multimillion dollar lawsuits.
One of the few good eggs at ISAF – Head of Competitions Alastair Fox – made some noise about moving the venue back in April, but was quickly silenced. Will Alastair or anyone else at ISAF have the balls to do something about it, especially now that they are properly on notice about just how bad it is?