That’s next year’s Olympics.
Not to put too fine a point on it but nearly 1,400 sailors, rowers, kayakers, windsurfers, triathletes and marathon swimmers will be competing in a toilet.
The state of Rio’s waterways is no secret. Around 70 per cent of the crap people flush down their loos ends up in the water.
But even then, no one knew quite how bad the problem was till Associated Press did some viral testing. Not the International Olympic Committee or the International Sailing Federation, out of concern for their athletes’ health, but Associated Press.Embed from Getty Images
The tests found waterborne viruses in concentrations similar to that found in raw sewage. Athletes in these events will literally be in the poo.
Not one of the water venues was found safe for swimming or boating. The concentration of nasties was up to 1.7 million times the level that would cause concern on a Californian beach.
Competitors ingesting even a small amount of water have a 99 per cent chance of infection, the remaining one per cent no doubt a statistical anomaly should someone inexplicably emerge from the water with a clean bill of health.
“It’s a latrine,” says one Brazilian biologist. Says the virologist who conducted the tests: “The quantity of faecal matter entering the waterbodies in Brazil is extremely high.”
Or as Kenny would say:
Already, many sailors have succumbed to headaches, dizziness, stomach cramps, fevers, skin rashes, infections, vomiting and diarrhoea after training in Guanabara Bay. Some have required hospitalisation.
As part of Rio’s winning bid, authorities promised to clean up the waterways but now say there won’t be enough time. They’re washing their hands of the problem. Just not in Guanabara Bay.
Instead, there will be a fleet of eco-boats on hand to pick up rubbish near the competition areas.Embed from Getty Images
That might be OK for dealing with the beds, couches, TVs, washing machines, cars, dead animals — and in some cases human bodies — that sailors have crashed into on their travels.
But it doesn’t solve the problem of being up sh*t creek, with or without a paddle depending on their chosen sport.
Athletes are being advised not to open their mouths or swallow the water and to close their eyes if they end up in the drink. All very practical in the heat of competition.
They’re instructed to wash their faces with bottled water if they get splashed by waves and to shower as soon as they return to shore. Other measures include carrying antiseptic mouthwash and hand sanitiser, sealing water bottles in zip-lock bags and sterilising oars with bleach.
British sailors have been told to drink Coke if they swallow any water. Which is convenient for the long-time Olympic sponsor.
Yet, for all that, Brazilian and IOC officials say everything will be hunky dory. Maybe we should line them all up for a photo opportunity, each with their own beaker of drinking water from Guanabara Bay.
As one rower noted of the typical victory celebration that follows a gold medal paddle: “I don’t think in this lake they’ll be throwing the coxswain into the water.”
And at least they get to go home afterwards.