One of the major storylines in advance of the Rio Games was the quality of the water in places like the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where the rowing events are being contested.
So while the Serbian duo of Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik were likely first and foremost frustrated and disappointed when they capsized in rough conditions in Saturday’s preliminary round of men’s double sculls, they had other worries: whether they’ll get sick from the contaminated water.
Vasic and Bedik are a strong pair, who won bronze at last year’s world championships, but even they were no match for the crosswinds and choppy waters on Saturday afternoon and sank about two-thirds of the way through the 2000-meter race. They tried to flip their boat back over and continue, but were unsuccessful.
Fortunately for them, FISA, the sport’s governing body, decided that even though Vasic and Bedik did not finish their heat, they can re-enter the repechage, which begins on Sunday morning.
— Liam Daniel Pierce (@LiamPierce) August 6, 2016
Men’s and women’s rowers were unhappy with the conditions, with some calling for a suspension of the regatta until they improved.
Just how bad are the waters around Rio? A 16-month study by the Associated Press found that they are contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, putting athletes at risk of becoming violently ill.
And the lagoon where rowing is being held is one of the two most contaminated waterways around Rio, along with Gloria Marina, which is the starting point for sailing races. In March 2015, sampling at the lagoon was 1.73 billion adenoviruses per liter of water; in June, that number was 248 million adenoviruses per liter, which is an improvement but still dangerous. For comparison, In California, a sample showing justi in the thousands of adenoviruses per liter would be alarming.