POSTED: September 1st 2015

Rio 2016 boss Carlos Nuzman defiant over criticisms of water quality

RIO 2016 President Carlos Nuzman met the press in London today / Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty
RIO 2016 President Carlos Nuzman met the press in London today / Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty

IOC Member Carlos Nuzman is also head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee / Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty
IOC Member Carlos Nuzman is also head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee / Justin Tallis / AFP / Getty

JOHN GOODBODY in LONDON / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The president of the Brazilian organising committee insisted today that the health of the athletes was the No.1 priority for the 2016 Olympics and dismissed fears that the water in Rio de Janeiro was a danger for sailors, rowers, triathletes and long-distance swimmers.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Carlos Nuzman declined to give a categoric assurance that no competitors would be ill, pointing out that they might eat something that could upset their stomachs.

Concern has grown in recent weeks because of a series of incidents at the Olympic test events, which may be linked to the water quality. Eric Heil, a German 49er class sailor, suffered an infected leg and was finally cured in a Berlin hospital after returning home. Wonwoo Cho, a South Korean windsurfer, had to be admitted to hospital in Brazil while 15 members of the US rowing team became ill with stomach problems in August during the test event on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, the spectacular setting for the sport at the Games.

However, both the International Sailing Federation and the International Olympic Committee have been supportive of the Rio organising committee and have not recently expressed publicly any worries at the Games venues, although rubbish had to be removed from the water during the test events.

Nuzman said: "The health of the athletes is our number one point. We had 365 athletes in the sailing competition at Guanabara Bay without any problems and some of them said good words about this. We are working every day so that we do not have problems."

He pointed out that Heil had suffered from a bacterial infection but because he was allergic to penicillin and he had to be treated in Germany. With the U.S. rowing team, who were suffering from diarrhoea, he said that several of them had not been rowing so that "there was not enough evidence" to blame the water. Nuzman argued: "The United States Rowing Federation was the first to recognise that."

He declared: "We have been  open and transparent on the water issues and other host cities also have had problems with their water." Before the test events, the athletes and officials had been informed "all of the time" about the quality of the water.

 Nuzman said that the local authorities had been testing the water for 38 years so that there is solid data and understanding about the quality, adding that local people had always swum and sailed in the sea during this time. "A cleaner bay will be one of the legacies of the Games. I am personally working on this and I hope when I come here next year"(in March)"I hope I can repeat this and give you further information."

During the FIFIA World Cup in 2014, there were some problems with the transportation, partly because of the geographical difficulties of a city, surrounded with mountains and also on the sea. He said that the metro line, which was not included in the bid book when Rio got the Games in 2009, was 75 percent ready and would be completed by June, 2016. This should certainly aid the city to cope with staging the world's biggest sports event, logistically an infinitely greater challenge than the FIFA World Cup.

Brazil successfully hosted the World Cup, although the national team failed to win the tournament, being crushed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final. Brazil have never won the Olympic soccer tournament and Nuzman said: "Our country expects a very good team and a positive result. If we get the gold medal, it will be fantastic. Our football needs this."

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.   

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · summer Games · Carlos Nuzman

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.