Experts warn Rio's Olympic venues bad for health

A new study finds that the waters in Rio are so badly polluted, that ingesting just ‘three teaspoons’ of water almost guarantees infection by Adenovirus. That's not even the worst of it.

Courtesy of: Nephelus via Reddit
Courtesy of: Nephelus via Reddit

Reddit user Nephelus is credited with creating this satirical jab of the Olympic Rings logo

Updated Aug 4, 2016

A newly released study commissioned by the Associated Press (AP) found that the waters in many of Rio's Olympic venues are so badly polluted, that ingesting just ‘three teaspoons’ almost guarantees infection by adenovirus. This comes just days before the 2016 Olympic games are set to begin in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro. This coincidentally is the first time the games have been hosted in South America.

1,400 of the nearly 11,500 Olympic athletes will be competing in Rio’s dangerously polluted and feces infested waters, with athletes from 27 countries participating in a 10km open water marathon race. 

Valerie Harwood, a biomedical expert, warned athletes saying,“Don’t put your head under water.”

People swim near Barra da Tijuca beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

On the bright side, getting infected doesn't necessarily equate to getting sick. Adenovirus is the cause of many medical conditions, affecting the respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. 

Diarrhea, pneumonia, bladder infections, and many more illnesses are linked with this infection; worst of which are neurologic diseases and very rarely, death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

People with strong immune systems do have a better chance of fighting infection, and may only catch the common cold or not get sick at all.

But experts have also warned that just breathing the air in Rio can be deadly. According to Rio’s government’s data, and testing done by Reuters, the levels of carcenigic particulate matter (PM10) is far beyond what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe.

Since 2008, data shows that PM10, one of the most deadly and dangerous air pollutants known, has consistently been between two and three times above the limits set by the WHO.  

Children try to catch a crab as they play on the polluted shore of Guanabara

Studies have also shown that the world-renowned Rio beaches are teeming with dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria”. In one study reviewed in September, the microbes (which are normally only found in hospitals) were present at five of Rio’s most popular beaches, including the open-water and triathlon swimming venue, Copacabana beach. The other beaches were Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo beaches; all popular tourist destinations.

Samples from from Copacabana Beach are collected, one of five beaches which tested positive for the drug-resistant "super bacteria".


Along with the high likelihood of getting violently ill from just being in Rio, there is a more nefarious element to consider. Organised crime rings, snatch and grab artists, muggers, and murderers are an ever-present fixture in the busy city.

Rio is often listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In recent weeks, a decomposing body was found floating in Guanabara bay, the Olympic sailing venue, and just weeks earlier, human body parts washed up in front of the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena.

A satirical take on the official Rio 2016 Olympic logo, featuring two muggers and their victim.

Several athletes have already been robbed, including one case where a seemingly drunk man stumbled towards Chinese hurdler Shi Dongpeng and a cameraman. After covering them both in a barage of vomit, he ran away. Dongpeng went to the restroom to clean himself, and the cameraman gave chase, giving the “drunk’s” accomplice time to steal all the unattended camera gear. Their entire ordeal was caught on the hotel’s cameras.

Notwithstanding, the most disturbing case may be of New Zealand jiu-jitsu martial artist, Jason Lee. He was reportedly kidnapped by two military police officers last week and forced to pull a large sum of cash from an ATM at gunpoint. After reporting the incident to the civil authorities, Lee reported being visited twice at his home by military personnel, where he was further harassed. The second time they paid him a visit, Lee called his embassy and both he and his journalist girlfriend fled to Canada, fearing for their safety.

Along with this, exposed wiring, backed-up plumbing, broken fixtures, water cuts, and general disarray seem to be the norm for early attendees staying in the athletes housing. 

When the Australian team came to Rio nearly two weeks ago, they found their accommodations "simply not safe or ready,” and refused to move in.

After 600 people were hired to work on repairs, the team was convinced to move back in. Last night a small fire broke out in the basement of the Australian team’s building, causing a few of the active fire alarms to go off and prompting a partial evacuation. 

While feeling the burning structure in the middle of the night, their team captain Kitty Chiller, told reporters she saw, “Three fire marshals walking out with our team shirts.” She continued, “I should take back fire marshals, I don’t know who they were. They were not team members.”

The situation could have been disastrous had the fire got out of control. Because of the large number of disabled fire alarms, many athletes didn’t heed the evacuation warning, and slept through the whole ordeal. 

As a result of the robbery, the team lost their long-sleeved Zika-protective shirts, and a laptop belonging to the cycling team. To add insult to injury, four members of the women’s polo team have been placed under quarantine after contracting a gastrointestinal illness.

Some teams do have it better than others, as the United States procured a luxury cruise ship to house its Olympic delegation.

Anchored in the heavily guarded Rio harbour, protected by a bullet proof fence, over 250 police, and two millitary patrol boats, the cruise ship Silver Cloud is home to the American delegation. The US teams opted to skip the traditional dorms reserved for athletic teams. 

TRTWorld and agencies