By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Concerned about reports of athletes becoming ill after participating in water sports test events in Brazil for the 2016 Rio Olympics the Olympic Committee has agreed to conduct viral testing in the waters where the events will be held. The committee was said to be “very concerned” about reports of German sailor, Erik Heil, being admitted into a Berlin hospital with severe skin inflammation following his return from a test event in Brazil.
“The viral tests will be conducted and repeated because the health of the athletes is our number one priority,” said Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympics Committee.
Heil alleges that he picked up the inflammation causing bacteria on his legs and hips from the regatta waters. “We have been sailing in Rio for a few years, training and preparing for the Olympic Games,” Heil was quoted as saying in the German Olympics website.
“I hope the improvements promised for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be fulfilled and no athletes will deal with health issues, leaving a legacy for the city of Rio de Janeiro,” added the athlete.
The Rio 2016 Organizing Committee sent a statement to Reuters on Heil’s hospitalization. Within the message, the Committee expressed its concern for the athlete’s health and claimed that it is premature to say whether the athlete had fallen ill because of the water.
“The DSV (German Sailing Association) told us that the Heil had received medical attention at a hospital in Berlin specialized in tropical diseases and that he had been diagnosed with a bacterial infection. The results of the athlete’s exams have not however been publicized yet,” said the statement.
“Based on information supplied by the DSV and currently available, it is premature to declare whether the infection suffered by the German sailor is the result of contact with the water in Guanabara Bay. Having said that, it is fundamental that focus remains on the prompt recovery of Heil.”
This is the second incident involving an athlete competing in a water sport to be hospitalized after test events for next year’s Olympics. Earlier in the month a twenty-year-old South Korean windsurfer was admitted to the hospital after competing in the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta. He suffered from dehydration, vomiting and dizziness.
The German Olympic Bronze winner had placed third in the test event which took place at Marina da Gloria, where the Olympic Sailing Competition will take place next year.
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) also issued an official statement stating that ‘the institution, Rio 2016, the IOC, the Brazilian Government, Rio State Environment Institute (INEA) and State Environment Agency (SEA) are all working together to prepare for Rio 2016, and Brazilian authorities are working to guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the safety of Marina da Gloria and a fair field of play for the athletes’.
After the test events, a task force with eco-boats collected 28 tons of floating rubbish in Guanabara Bay. The Rio 2016 sailing events will take place at the Marina da Glória, Rio de Janeiro, from 8-18 August 2016. Brazil and will feature 380 athletes competing across ten events.