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Olympics: Rio chief pledges to ‘fix’ water pollution

September 1, 2015

LONDON, U.K. — The president of the organizing committee for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro vowed on Tuesday to address concerns about water pollution at a sailing venue.

Two competitors had to be hospitalized following a recent test regatta at Rio’s picturesque Guanabara Bay, while other events have been disrupted by floating debris such as rubbish and dead animals.

Sailing’s governing body, the International Sailing Federation, has expressed concerns about water quality at the site, but Carlos Nuzman said he would take steps to address the matter.

“The water quality is one of the points of attention,” Nuzman told journalists during a press briefing in central London. “I assure you that the health and well-being of the athletes is our priority.”

He added: “Other Olympic cities had problems with their water and fixed them before the Olympics, and Rio will do the same. This is a serious matter and we’ll do our best to protect people’s health.

“A cleaner Guanabara will be one of the main legacies of the games. I have no doubts that we will do the sailing competition in Guanabara.”

Last week, German sailor Erik Heil revealed that he had to undergo an operation on a serious skin infection after competing in the Olympic test regatta at Guanabara.

“I have never in my life had a leg infection,” he wrote in a Sailing Team Germany blog. “I assume that I got it from the test regatta.”

Heil blamed wastewater flowing from a nearby hospital.

South Korean windsurfer Wonwoo Cho also had to be hospitalized after falling ill, while reports said that numerous other athletes had also complained of feeling unwell.

Meanwhile, Nuzman declared that Brazil’s recession would not have an impact on preparations for the Olympics, saying: “Rio is on the way without a problem.”

He also expressed hope that Brazil’s football team would bounce back from the humiliation of their 7-1 loss to Germany in last year’s World Cup semi-finals on home soil by taking gold in the men’s football competition.

“It will be very important to win the gold medal in football,” he said. “Our football needs this.”

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