That Brazil is a complete economic and political disaster is well known to readers at this point. However, when we noted nearly a year ago that Olympic swimmers would be swimming in feces, it was at least somewhat assumed that the issue would have been largely addressed by now - it turns out that's not the case.
With the Olympics set to begin in just one month, CBS News reports that raw sewage is still flowing from Rio's neighborhoods right into the water. "We had seven years and our authorities didn't do almost anything, because this is a toilet." said biologist Mario Moscatelli as he pointed at the water, which according to CBS contains viruses up to 1.7 million more times hazardous than any beach in the US.
If that isn't bad enough, the so-called "super bacteria" in the waterway is apparently resistant to antibiotics. Renata Picao, a professor at Rio's federal university whose study found the super bug said "these bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea."
CNN has more
A group of Brazilian scientists have detected a drug-resistant bacteria growing off of some of Rio de Janeiro's most stunning beaches, one month before the city is due to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
According to lead researcher Renata Picao, the "super bacteria" entered the city's waterways when sewage coming from local hospitals got channeled into the bay.
"We have been looking for 'super bacteria' in coastal waters during a one-year period in five beaches," Picao told CNN during a visit to her lab. "We found that the threats occur in coastal waters in a variety of concentrations and that they are strongly associated with pollution."
The news comes as Rio prepares to host hundreds of thousands of athletes and tourists during next month's Summer Olympics.
Among the beaches flagged were Flamengo and Botafogo, which border the bay where Olympic sailors are scheduled to compete.
"It's a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there's some alien enemy entering your face," German Paralympic sailor Heiko Kroger said during a recent visit to Rio. "I keep my nose and my lips closed."
Kroger believes the super bacteria may have caused a severe skin infection in one of his teammates during recent training.
Picao believes the city's "fragile" sanitation infrastructure is responsible for the presence of the super bacteria.
"This bacteria colonizes the intestine and it goes along with feces to the hospital sewage," Picao said. "We believe that hospital sewage goes into municipal sewage and gets to the Guanabara Bay or to other rivers and finally gets to the beach."
According to Rio's water utility, Cedae, the criteria established by the World Health Organization have been followed.
"Fifty one percent of the city's sewage is now treated," production director Edes de Oliveira told CNN. "Seven years ago it was only 11 percent."
Given all of that, Picao isn't recommending changing the venue because "we don't know the risks yet" - well, if the risk is an alien enemy entering your face every time the water touches it, as Heiko Kroger explained it, then changing the venue may want to be on the list of options.
With the background properly set, and given that the Olympics is still on - for now - the US rowing team will be using suits designed by Boathouse Sports that will help keep the sewage off the rowers. As the AP reports, the new seamless one-piece suit is knitted with an anti-microbial finish, that will also have water-repellent features to keep the rowers cool and dry - and hopefully, free from shit.