About a year before the 2016 Olympic torch would be lit in Rio de Janeiro, an Associated Press investigation found that the world's most elite rowers, canoers and sailors were likely to compete in water with dangerous levels of viruses and bacteria from human waste. The amount of disease-causing viruses on Rio's beaches was up to 1.7 million times higher than the level considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.
The AP analysis was the first independent review of both viruses and bacteria at the Olympic sites. Brazilian officials have assured athletes and the medical director of the International Olympic Committee that the water will be safe, but neither the government nor the IOC tests for viruses, relying on bacteria testing only.
Water pollution at Olympic sites in Rio:
- Most of Brazil's sewage is untreated. Raw waste runs through ditches to streams and rivers on its way to Olympic water sites.
- Tests at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, where rowing and canoeing events will be held, found 1.7 billion adenoviruses per liter, an amount that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and a number of other illnesses.
- Guanabara Bay, where sailing competitions will be held, is flooded with nearly 400 tons of garbage each day, NBC News reported.