The Rio Olympics haven’t even kicked off yet and there’s already a sense that they’re going to be a massive disaster. Things have gone far beyond the now-standard stories of Olympic village construction snafus into serious health and safety concerns. After a number of muggings and the entire security apparatus for the games being replaced last second, a segment of the internet has already started referring to the event as ‘The Apocalympics.’
Another worrisome nickname: Guanabara Bay, where many Olympic water competitions are set to take place, is being called ‘The Toilet Bowl of Rio.’ A number of large news outlets have done exposés on the situation, including the country’s own press. A few days ago, they noted a storm drain still discharging feces directly into the bay a mere 250 feet from the Olympic Flame pavilion.
And now the Associated Press has released the final report in a damning 16 month investigation into the state of Rio’s water, one that could bring a more viral meaning to the word ‘host’ at the Olympics.
The first results of the study published over a year ago showed viral levels at up to 1.7 million times what would be considered worrisome in the United States or Europe. At those concentrations, swimmers and athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water are almost certain to be infected with viruses that can cause stomach and respiratory illnesses and more rarely heart and brain inflammation — although whether they actually fall ill depends on a series of factors including the strength of the individual’s immune system.
In light of the AP’s findings, Harwood had one piece of advice for travelers to Rio: “Don’t put your head under water.”
Swimmers who cannot heed that advice stand to ingest water through their mouths and noses and therefore risk “getting violently ill,” she said.
Some waterways have gotten cleaner, but that’s a somewhat relative term when you consider it’s still foul enough to poison anyone unfortunate enough to get their faceholes submerged in it. The AP reports that the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon went from 1.73 billion adenoviruses per liter to 248 million adenoviruses per liter. They note, however, that “viral readings in the thousands per liter are enough to set off alarm bells” in America.
There’s all sorts of terrible scientific terms to get yourself familiarized with in the study, from measurements like fecal coliform levels to diseases such as rotavirus-caused gastroenteritis. It’s a veritable potpourri of poop induced problems, and a ton of Olympic athletes and tourists are going to be literally swimming in it.