ICF plays down concerns over Rio 2016 canoeing venue

The International Canoeing Federation (ICF) has sought to play down the latest set of concerns surrounding 2016 Olympic Games venues for water sports by stating that the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon will be cleared of weeds in time for next year’s event.

The lagoon in central Rio de Janeiro, which will also host rowing events, has been the subject of concern, along with Guanabara Bay and the Copacabana Beach venue, over the cleanliness of the water.

An Olympic canoeing test event was held in Rio over the weekend and saw competitors complain that aquatic weeds were getting caught in rudders and hung up on their paddles, making fair racing impossible. “One of the things that's clear is that the race course must be cleared,” Portuguese canoeist Fernando Pimenta said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “Remove as much weed as possible.”

Germany’s Max Hoff lost a 1,000-metre race on Saturday that Pimenta won, and stated he had difficulties coping with the weeds. “The Olympic Games is the most important race we have all of the year,” Hoff said. “And for that, we should have the best conditions we can get.”

Hoff also said the lagoon was too shallow and too windy, adding that he estimated the course to be only two metres deep – half the required depth. “They have to make a fence – 1,000 metres long – along both sides of the course, that if there (is) wind starting we can go into this lane,” Hoff said.

However, ICF secretary general Simon Toulson has said such issues are normal in canoeing. “This is a common occurrence in our sport,” he said, according to the Reuters news agency. “It is not going to happen in the Olympic Games because we have a long time to prepare and we are going to clean up the course.”