Olympic Committee Fails to Meet Promises Concerning Pollution
by Jack Weiler on Friday, January 22nd, 2016
The Olympic Games, from ancient Greece to present day, represent the ultimate honor in sports, a competition only those of the highest skill level and athletic ability can reach. The Olympics not only foster an international rivalry but also are a site of unparalleled global unification. Medalling or not, athletes bring pride to their relative nations. Yet perhaps the biggest source of nationalism sprouts from the honor of hosting the Games. The lucky city that’s hosting this Summer Olympic Games? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the Games nearing, Rio has faced increasing controversy over its ability to ultimately provide for spectators and athletes. Rio, although a beautiful location, is laced with toxic environmental and social factors. Along with other cities in Brazil, Rio also boasts high crime rates. But the largest point of debate, as of right now, is the alleged pollution at the venues for the Olympics.
The pollution starts with the water. According to the Associated Press, the waters in and around Rio hold viruses derived from human waste. The current levels of these viruses in the water is 1.7 billion times what a typical level in the United States would be. German Olympic sailor Erik Heil was sailing in these waters for a test event in August and contracted flesh-eating bacteria soon after the event. Unfortunately, the viruses are not just concentrated near the shore but are also widespread. According to the University of Texas Health Center at Houston, in these waters, exposure is imminent and infection is likely. NBC news compared the water to “raw sewage.” To make the matter even more alarming, the World Health Organization and officials for the games made promises about cleaning the waters at the end of the past summer when reports started to emerge, but they have flip-flopped on promises to test these waters. Also, another test conducted by the AP states that bacterial levels are even higher now than in August.
This extreme pollution poses serious problems for athletes, and for the Games in general. Spectators are reluctant to pay money to go to a heavily polluted area. Worries run high concerning the safety of recreational water sports, and even of drinking water. While there are no reports currently about such allegations, consumers in America and other countries could easily reach these conclusions. Pregnant women have been warned away from visiting several South American countries, including Brazil, for fear that the mosquito-carried Zika disease will cause the unborn child to have microcephaly, or abnormally small heads. The outbreak of Zika is worrying for health officials, not only as a health hazard for tourists but also for residents of the countries. In many cases, people would rather be safe and healthy than experience the Olympics in person. The Olympic committee in Rio could have easily avoided this predicament if the tests and cleanup measures had begun on schedule. Instead they have been tip-toeing around the subject, claiming that their waters meet health standards, and are consequently losing many spectators’ and athletes’ confidence in attending.
The small-efforts made toward improving this major health issue by the Rio Olympic Committee and the Brazilian government tarnish the standard of the Games. While we at Boston have a love for our “dirty water,” Rio’s water pollution takes the phrase to new levels.
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