Pollution concerns at the Rio 2016 sailing venue in Guanabara Bay have been revived following the discovery of a drug-resistant “super-bacteria” capable of causing a number of different infections.
Researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Institute found traces of the bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) in samples taken from Flamengo Beach, close to the Marina de Gloria on Guanabara Bay in which action is due to take place in less than two years time.
The bacteria, usually found in hospital waste, can cause urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections, with treatment often requiring hospitalisation, it has been reported.
A Rio 2016 spokesperson has confirmed to insidethegames they are in contact with specialists, and will work to address the concerns.
“We were alerted to a possible presence of KPC type bacteria in some parts of the Carioca River in September,” a statement said.
“We talked to experts from Government and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and since then have monitored the issue – Rio 2016 created a task force regarding this matter.
“The group will continue to monitor the matter very closely and discuss with the Government and with specialists the solutions to prevent contamination of the water and continue to guarantee the safety of athletes.
“This issue does not impose any change in our planning for the test events and competition events.”
State Government officials responsible for maintaining safety have sought to play down fears somewhat, claiming the bacteria is not very resistant in the environment, especially in salt water where it is very weak, and that risk exists only for people who have weakened immune systems.
Yet this is a further worry nonetheless after months of concerns over pollution levels on the Bay, which has provoked criticism from sailors and officials alike, despite cleaning up the entire Bay being a major legacy commitment when Rio was bidding for the Games.
In June, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes admitted the original aim to reduce pollution levels by 80 per cent on the Bay would not now be met.
“I am sorry that we didn’t use the Games to get Guanabara Bay completely clean, but that wasn’t for the Olympic Games – that was for us,” he said.
“That was something that we could not accomplish that was in the Bid Book.”
Rio State Environment Secretary Carlos Francisco Portinho also admitted, in a letter to Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, it will take over a decade to significantly reduce pollution levels.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Mr. Nick Butler and the publisher, inside the games.