Contaminated water at the Rio Olympics


Clean water to race in?

The City of Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil promised to clean the water where the outdoor water events would be held as part of its successful bid to win the recently completed Summer Olympic games.

As a result of recession and limited funding the pledged programs to clean the water ahead of the arrival of the athletes did not happen.

The country has experienced a centuries-long sewage problem which was part of Brazil’s colonial legacy. The issue captured the attention of the country in recent decades in tandem with the rural exodus saw the Rio metropolitan area nearly double in size since 1970. Even in the city’s wealthy areas, the building of sewage treatment plans failed to kept up with the growth.

Brazil promised to build eight treatment facilities to filter out much of the sewage as part of its Olympic project which would prevent tons of household trash from flowing water where the events would occur. Only one was built.

As a result, the athletes encountered the added challenge of the hazards of the contaminated water in addition to competing with other world class athletes during the outdoor water events.

The problem – contaminated water?

The problem in two words is raw sewage.  More specifically, the sewage is the water from the toilets and the showers going out into the water to the beaches.

Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where most sewage is not treated. Most of the raw sewage generated is not treated before being returned to the countries streams and rivers Brazilians are exposed from childhood and build up immunities. By adolescence people in Rio the level of the residents’ exposure to the viruses is enough build up antibodies. An estimated 60% of Brazilian adults have been exposed to hepatitis. Foreign athletes and tourists will not carry antibodies to protect them against what could be in the water.

The people who remain with untreated water

The return of the athletes to their countries leaves the citizens of Brazil are left with the water which was promised to be cleaned by authorities but was not.  I wonder if the politicians who promised to upgrade the facilities and stood to profit handsomely from the Olympics are drinking the same water as the life-long residents of Brazil which the improvements were pledged to help the most?