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Rio's filthy, polluted waters obstruct practice runs for Olympic sailors, as boats collide with trash, dead animals and more

Rio Olympics

(NaturalNews) Of the many challenges facing athletes in the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, perhaps none is more daunting than what is likely to be encountered by those competing in sailing and rowing events.

The problem is with pollution and floating rubbish in the water where these competitions will be held. Not only is there an issue with the huge amount of floating debris in Guanabara Bay – which may cause logistical problems for sailors – but there are potential health risks as well, due to raw sewage and other contaminants present in the water.

A pair of Australian sailors, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, who happen to be the favorites in the 470 class sailing competition, say that the debris is hampering their training efforts in the weeks leading up to the Games.

Belcher and Ryan said that the floating rubbish could also affect the actual competition, if greater efforts are not made to clean up the bay before the competitions begin.

The massive amount of floating trash, which includes everything from dead animals to discarded furniture, is causing the sailors to have to stop at times so that they can clean debris from their boat's foil (rudder) before continuing to sail.

"Two or three times a day we would be caught up with rubbish on our foil," Belcher told the Australian Associated Press. "We need to stop, slow the boat down completely and raise our foils."

Belcher said he hopes that things will improve before the Games begin, but expressed fears that the rubbish could have a big effect on the medal race, despite assurances on the part of organizers.

'There's all sorts of rubbish'

Belcher and Ryan have encountered the same problem in previous racing events held in Rio. In fact, the pair almost lost their gold medal-winning lead in a 2014 Rio race when they were forced to stop and clean debris from the boat.

The pair have made nine trips to Rio over the past three years, encountering chairs, coolers, plastic bags and aluminum cans while racing, but they say they have seen improvements, particularly in Marina da Gloria, where raw sewage was a major problem until recent cleanup efforts were carried out.

Belcher said:

"Inside the marina there's been a dramatic improvement, it's much more pleasant than having a raw sewage outlet where you launch your boat.

"But the water is still polluted and there's a lot of rubbish. We're hoping organisers can clean that up as we get closer to the Games.

"There's all sorts of rubbish - dead animals, furniture, plastic bags, a lot of coke cans."

The water pollution problems in Rio are not limited to the bay and marina, however. Last year, water samples taken from the lagoon where rowing and canoeing events will be held, detected high levels of microbial contamination.

U.S. rowing team will wear anti-microbial training suits

Fear of contracting illnesses from the contaminated water has prompted the U.S. rowing team to acquire specially-designed antimicrobial training suits to protect them.

The one-piece suits are made with an anti-microbial finish, and are also designed to be water-repellent. The maker, Boathouse Sports, says that the suits may be adopted for the actual racing events if the team likes the way they perform in training.

Between the fears of water pollution, floating debris, questionable food, Zika virus and rampant Rio crime and violence, the 2016 Summer Games could turn out to be as dangerous and challenging as any Olympic competition the world has ever seen.

Hopefully, the city will be sufficiently cleaned up and ready for competition when the Games begin on August 5.

The participating athletes and their fans will find out soon enough ...




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