As It Happens

Rio 2016 water full of 'garbage, plastic bags, bottles, fridges and condoms'

After a report saying up to 1400 athletes are at risk of becoming "violently ill" due to the polluted waters in Rio, one German sailor says he's taking precautions, but will continue on.
Garbage is spotted floating in the waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro where Olympic sailors will be training and competing for medals. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen6:44

A common theme in the lead up to the Olympic games has been the polluted waters of Rio. With competition set to begin in a matter of days, the waters are reportedly as dirty as ever, contaminated with garbage and raw sewage.

"You can see it because there is lots of garbage floating around. Garbage, plastic bags, bottles, refrigerators, condoms, whatever you can imagine, it's there," Heiko Kröger, a German paralympic sailor tells As It Happens guest host Rosemary Barton.

If there is no wind, Kröger says the water smells like a toilet.

Helicopter overview with biologist Mario Moscatelli illustrates the extent of Olympic host city's water pollution 3:27

Tests commissioned by the Associated Press show some 1,400 athletes are at risk of getting violently ill in water competitions.

Normally water is our friend because we use it for sailing but this time it's our enemy.- Heiko Kröger

In light of the findings, biomedical expert Valerie Harwood had one piece of advice: "Don't put your head under water."

The Gloria Marina, the starting point for the sailing races, is among the most contaminated points, according to the AP.

"When you go on to the ocean, the water is nearly clean, but inside this bay, the water is very dirty. You can't see the ground of the bay," says Kröger.

Heiko Kroeger of Germany is seen competing during the 2008 games in Beijing. (Getty Images)

Despite the risks,  Kröger and his teammates are going to go on with the competition. There are reports of some athletes taking prophylactic antibiotics as a preventative measure, or wearing masks. Kröger, however, says he's just going to wash his hands and try to keep water from the bay out of his mouth.

"There is a big fear that something will happen so we have to take care a lot. Normally water is our friend because we use it for sailing but this time it's our enemy," laments the gold medalist.

But the bigger worry for Kröger is the familiar Olympic feeling that seems to be missing this time.

"I don't see in this Olympics and Paralympics the spirit of the games. We go there, we have this sailing event and we leave this country afterwards."

The quality of the water in Guanabara Bay continues to be a concern for sailors leading up to the Rio Games. (Tasso Marcelo/Getty Images)

Kröger, whose grandfather lived in Rio in the 1920's described the city as "the most beautiful city in the world." He says he has been disappointed by the pollution, crime and the political instability.

"It's not the most beautiful city in the world anymore."

With files from CP

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