By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Representatives of the International Olympic Committee have visited Rio de Janeiro for the ninth time to evaluate progress of the preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games and have ruled out testing the waters in the city for viruses. Controversy about the water quality in Rio had arisen again after AP had ordered independent tests with devastating results.
Executives from the IOC continue to assure that the waters in Rio are safe for athletes, despite confessions from Rio authorities about not reaching their initial cleanup pledge, which together with reports about floating debris and high levels of disease-causing viruses had started a debate.
President of the IOC’s Coordination Commission, Nawal El Moutawakel, has even proposed to swim in Guanabara Bay, the local for the windsurfing and sailing competition, which as received most criticism so far. “We’ll swim in the bay. I propose that we all go swimming there,” she said when asked if she would enter the waters in Rio.
Executive director, Christophe Dubi, added that the waters will be continued to be tested for bacteria, but not viruses. “The test for bacteria is the most appropriate here and we will continue to use it. The result of the tests to date, is that water quality is safe for athletes.”
Adding, “Will we reach eighty percent [of treated wastewater]? It is hard to measure. The main goal is to deliver a playing field with good conditions of water quality for the athletes. The important thing is that monitoring and the cleanup programs will continue until the Games and after the Games.”
The controversy about Rio’s waters had received more fuel after several athletes participating in the Junior Rowing Championship last week fell ill. However, the athletes’ federations, as well as organizers did not blame the water quality of the Lagoa, but nervousness and travel sickness. They were quick to point out that the only athlete who had fallen into the water did not get sick and that on the other hand, coaching staff that had no contact with the water did.
Apart from the questions about the water quality, the IOC was satisfied with the state of the preparations. “I am very proud and happy to see the high level of preparation for the test events. Brazilians should be proud of the test events that took place last week. I did not see any relevant problem. It’s fantastic to see the facilities of the Olympic Park, six years later, become reality,” El Moutawakel stated.
While the construction of facilities no longer worries the authorities one year ahead of the event, the IOC stressed the high level of operational planning needed to host the Games and that there was still work to do. “We will have about 150,000 accreditations, thousands of contracts, thousands of people still to be hired. All this requires a lot of details,” Dubi explained.
“The support of the population for the Games, despite the political and economic crisis is an important point for us. We are aware of the problems, which the country is going through, but we have had support from people across the country, and this is very important,” El Moutawakel added.