Are Olympic athletes walking (or swimming) into an environmental and health disaster?


Olympic logo 2016The opening ceremony of this year’s summer Olympics is just around the corner. Festivities begin this Friday evening U.S. time.(7pm Eastern time). Yet despite the hype, advertising and anticipation, athletes and attendees will have to contend with some serious issues – both environmental and health-related – that could put them at risk.

Brazil has experienced some pretty rough times the past few years, including a crippling recession. Rio’s city government declared a financial disaster just last month, which has severely effected rail line completion and sparked power outages.

Polluted waterway where Rio Olympic events will be held. Photo by Pieter van den Hoogenband

Polluted waterway where Rio Olympic events will be held. Photo by Pieter van den Hoogenband

Worse still, the recession means that Rio’s waterway pollution clean-up hasn’t taken place.According to an article by Lorraine Chow, raw sewage and even body parts have been found at water sport venues. The Brazilian government built only 1 of the promised 8 water treatment plants on Rio’s rivers. Add to this the presence of antibiotic-resistant super bacteria in the waters where swimming and boating will take place, and the presence of the mosquito-borne virus Zika there, athletes face the risk of serious health repercussions after the competition.

We always look to the Olympics to be signals of hope for the future for our world. But with these seriously hazardous circumstances waiting for the Olympians, we can only hold our breath and hope that these amazing athletes who have trained so hard for so long will get through it all unscathed.

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