When a pair of Rio pools suddenly turned a deep green color earlier this week, Olympic officials rushed to assure competitors that the change in appearance would have no adverse health effects. Nothing a little chlorine, filtering and chemicals can’t fix.
Well, it turns out attempts to solve the problem weren’t quite so effective in the short term.
“I could barely open my eyes for the final quarter,” said Tony Azevedo, the U.S. men’s water polo team captain after Team USA’s victory over France on Wednesday. “This is the Olympic Games and they are putting so much chlorine in the water that people can’t see. You can’t have that.”
Despite vocal complaints from both teams, Rio officials held a press conference Wednesday that told a very different story, maintaining that there is “absolutely no risk” and no ill effects. The reasoning for the color change, though, wasn’t clear. Mario Andrada, a Rio 2016 spokesman, noted that a lot of people had been in the pools, claiming that their presence had set off a chemical imbalance.
Andrada denied the presence of algae, but added that the water could have been monitored more closely. Wednesday morning’s rain was also cited as a factor in the changing color.
Erica Andresen, the associate director for recreation facilities at George Mason University, told the Washington Post that she has never seen anything like what’s happened in Rio, suggesting that officials probably “shocked the pool,” using large amounts of chlorine in an attempt to restore the pools to their normal shades.
In the end, Azevedo said that the problem has now grown from a minor aesthetic disturbance to an actual health hazard.
“What’s ridiculous is not the green water. I’ve played in plenty of pools with green water,” he said. “Who cares about the green water? The water could be any color, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s safe for us.”
These water issues have simply added to a long list of aquatic concerns surrounding this summer’s Olympics in Brazil, including super bacteria in a contaminated lagoon. Officials say the diving and water polo pools will be clear Thursday.