IOC Says They Will Not Test For Viruses in Rio’s Olympic Waterways

As Rio de Janeiro’s dirty water saga continues to press on, the International Olympic Committee announced they do not believe testing the viral levels in the Olympic waterways in necessary despite almost certain exposure to pathogens, according to leading health and water experts.

Open water swimming is scheduled to take place at Copacabana Beach, which is one of the locations that the  the Associated Press’ discovered high viral and some bacterial contamination. The IOC is choosing not to conduct any of their own viral tests because “the World Health Organization (WHO) has not and will not issue an ‘official recommendation’ on viral testing.”

The Associated Press contradicts that statement, however. The AP said they have received two emails from the World Health Organization after releasing the results of their study on July 30th. Reportedly, the WHO told the AP that they were advising the International Olympic Committee “to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses.” When asked about the statements made to the AP via email, the WHO changed their tone and claimed that the “WHO has not and will not issue an ‘official recommendation’ on viral testing.”

Additionally, the IOC admitted that they dismissed reports that a third of the US Rowing team got sick due to the exposure of contaminated water at the World Junior Rowing Championships; Rio 2016’s rowing test event.

Nawal El Moutawakel, who heads the IOC’s inspection team that comes to Rio every six month to check on progress in the city’s Olympic preparations, also cast doubt on the U.S. team doctor and stressed [the IOC’s] commitment to the athletes’ health and safety.”

Despite promises made to clean up the cities’ waterways when they Rio was awarded the games in 2009, Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao recently pushed the timeline for a cleanup of the Guanabara Bay back to 2035. Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi also added that it was difficult to parse out what, exactly, the Olympic water cleanup promises had entailed.

“Thanks to the games, the level of awareness regarding the bay has been raised to unprecedented levels, which is a good thing,” Dubi said.

Although bringing awareness of the bay’s pollution is a good thing, something needs to be done within the next year, rather than by 2035.

Read the AP’s original article here.


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THE Other Hulk
6 years ago

I dont know what the answer is.

You dont want the open water athletes to boycott the Olympic games, but you dont want them to get potentially life threatening sick either.

Very similar situation to 2008 when marathon runners said “no thank you” to the Olympics in China.

Linda Hadaller
6 years ago

Perhaps the IOC members who feel viral testing is not necessary should show their confidence in the water quality by brushing their teeth and drinking a small amount, say 1 once, with the water in question. If they did this and no one became ill, I think that would lay to rest the health and safety concerns for good

Reply to  Linda Hadaller
6 years ago


6 years ago

well this is an issue. and the fact that they are not doing anything about it is a problem. This is the OLYMPIC GAMES PEOPLE.

6 years ago

This is absurd… booo, IOC…


6 years ago

For an athlete, HEALTH is everything. Good health is what allows athletes to train, increase strength and endurance, and perform at elite levels. No athlete, or any human being, should be subjected to water full of bacteria, viruses, garbage, and sewage. Of course not. It is despicable that this issue is being turned into a political issue when it is in fact, clearly a HEALTH issue. Any event that will be in an unhealthy environment should be relocated. For air, water, or any other quality hazard. Who want to willingly volunteer to destroy their health?? Do not ask athletes to do so.

6 years ago

If you listen to Mike & Mike in the morning, which has a massive listening audience, they have been all over this. Mike Greenberg even offered to pay for flights for anyone from the Executive Committee to take their families there and shoot video of themselves swimming in the water! LOL

6 years ago

I wonder if Mr. Nawal El Moutawakel and Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao would be willing to assuage our fears by spending an hour or so swimming in these “safe” waters. (Nah, who am I kidding?)

Shame on the IOC.

6 years ago

Well, if I were an open-water swimmer headed to the Olympics I’d refuse to swim in this water. I might even consider that if I were a boat-sport athlete. Lacking any more action from the IOC, I think they all have to strike or the equivalent and get the venue changed. Bummer.

Worse, long-term, what does this say for what we’re doing to our oceans? (and not just to point fingers at Brazil – at our rivers, like the Animas in Colorado?).

About Tony Carroll

Tony Carroll

The writer formerly known as "Troy Gennaro", better known as Tony Carroll, has been working with SwimSwam since April of 2013. Tony grew up in northern Indiana and started swimming in 2003 when his dad forced him to join the local swim team. Reluctantly, he joined on the condition that …

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