The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hailed the success of Rio 2016’s first set of test events for the Olympic Games, but has ruled out conducting viral tests of Rio de Janeiro’s polluted waterways ahead of next year’s event.
Rio 2016 has so far conducted test events for the sports of equestrian, rowing, triathlon and volleyball. Nawal el Moutawakel, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2016 Games, said the results of these tests bode well for the main event itself.
“I was at the equestrian event and I was very proud and happy about how it was organised,” El Moutawakel said, according to the Reuters news agency. “We have already seen excellent volleyball, triathlon, rowing and equestrian events, with more exciting sport to come over the next few weeks. This demonstrates the organisers' capabilities and their capacity to deliver outstanding Olympic Games next year.”
However, El Moutawakel conceded that some question marks remain, with plans being altered for Sunday’s test event for road cycling. The start time has been brought forward and the starting point moved to avoid coinciding with planned protests against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Rousseff’s approval rating is currently at the lowest ever for a Brazilian leader and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across the country to call for her impeachment. “The Games have a strong appeal for Brazilians,” El Moutawakel said, adding she was not concerned that political unrest will affect Rio 2016. “In the middle of this political and economic crisis the events are going to continue although routes can change as with the cycling.”
Meanwhile, the IOC has ruled out conducting enhanced testing of water at Rio 2016 venues. The news appears to backtrack on earlier statements from the IOC indicating that it was to order new testing for disease-causing viruses in Rio waters.
Confirmation of the new testing had come after an investigation commissioned by the Associated Press news agency stated athletes at Rio 2016 will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human faeces they risk becoming “violently ill” and unable to compete. AP said it carried out its own tests after the Brazilian government and the IOC did not check for viruses during an initial analysis of the water, instead relying on testing for bacteria only.
In two separate statements following the AP’s July 30 publication about its study, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was advising the IOC “to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses.” However, in a statement on Monday, the organisation backtracked and said that “WHO has not and will not issue an 'official recommendation' on viral testing.”
The IOC’s Olympic Games executive director, Christophe Dubi, said: “WHO is very clear that bacterial testing is what should be followed. They have restated that bacterial testing is the measure that has to be used and will continue to be used by the authorities. … It is the best measure to be used. We have also asked if with these measures and with this testing we can ensure the quality of the water for the athletes and preserving safety and the answer is yes.”
Guanabara Bay will host sailing events at Rio 2016, while canoeing and rowing will be held in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in central Rio, and triathlon and distance swimming will take place by the iconic Copacabana Beach.