One more reminder that the Rio Olympics aren’t going swimmingly

SHARE One more reminder that the Rio Olympics aren’t going swimmingly

A man washes himself in the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday. While local authorities including Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes have acknowledged the failure of the city’s water cleanup efforts, calling it a “lost chance” and a “shame,” Olympic officials continue to insist Rio’s waterways will be safe for athletes and visitors. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Since Rio de Janeiro was awarded the Olympics in 2009, there has been a steady stream of bad news and dark predictions. A failing economy. Out-of-control crime. The impeachment of Brazil’s president.

But the competition for the Most Ominous Olympic Warning ended Monday with this headline:

Expert to Rio athletes: “Don’t put your head under water.’’

According to a study commissioned by the Associated Press, Rio’s waterways are badly contaminated with raw human sewage. That sewage includes viruses and bacteria, which is why Valerie Hardwood, chair of the integrative biology department at the University of South Florida, recommended that people keep their heads above water in Rio. Failing to do so, she warned, would be to risk “getting violently ill.’’

Basically, you don’t want to be an Olympic rower, sailor or open-water swimmer at these Games. Come to think of it, you probably don’t want to be a tourist either.

From the AP:

According to California’s bacterial tests standards, 400 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters is the upper limit for a beach to be considered safe for swimming. AP’s tests revealed that Copacabana Beach, where the marathon and triathlon swimming are to be held and thousands of tourists are likely to take a dip, exceeded California’s limit five times over 13 months of testing.

Every Olympics has its share of issues. And you can bet that Chicago, had it won the bid for the 2016 Games, would have been presented with a few of its own. But nothing like what is playing out in Rio. I’ve covered eight Olympics and watched numerous others from afar, but I have never seen anything like this.

Rio can’t keep its head above water, and swimmers shouldn’t put their heads under water. What a mess.

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