Green Pools At 2016 Rio Olympics Finally Explained, Officials Deny Risk Of Harm To Swimmers

The 2016 Rio Olympics have been full of adventure for many, but the murky green pools, dubbed “the swamp” by American diver Abby Johnston, are beyond what many have expected. Fortunately, according to reports by NBC Olympics, the source of the murky mess was finally explained on Saturday. Officials claimed the water in two of the Olympic competition pools turned green due to a worker mistakenly adding 160 liters of hydrogen peroxide on August 5. The error neutralized the chlorine, allowing “organic compounds” to grow which may have included algae. So how will the Olympic officials solve this problem?

On Saturday, Rio Olympic officials gave up cleaning the green pool water at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center. Instead, they decided to drain the larger of the two pools and transfer 1 million gallons of water from a practice pool in time for the synchronized swimming event scheduled to begin on Sunday. Mario Andrada, a spokesperson for 2016 Rio, told NBC Olympics this “radical measure” is needed to clear the water for judges and swimmers who spend much of their competition time underwater.

Rio 2016 started actions to clean the green pools on Friday after canceling training and releasing the following statement.

“We confirm that diving training in Maria Lenk Aquactics Centre’s pool is cancelled this morning. FINA is aware and supports our decision. The reason is that the water must be still so the pool can return to its blue color as soon as possible. Athletes are performing dry training this morning in Maria Lenk. Diving training will resume at 1 p.m. and the preliminaries at 3:30 p.m.”

Training resumed a half hour behind schedule, and Canadian diver Vincent Riendeau said they were cautioned before returning to the pool.

“There’s a bit more chlorine. They told us not to open our eyes too much in the water. It’s just a question of health and not getting our eyes too itchy. I haven’t felt anything. I dove for two hours and I really didn’t feel my eyes starting to itch. I think it’s going to be all right for all the athletes.”

Unlike Riendeau, some of the competitors complained the water or the chemical treatment hurt their eyes and made underwater visibility difficult, reported the New York Times. Contrarily, NBC Olympics states some divers said the green pool water helped them during competition by giving them a contrast with the blue sky when spinning in the air.

Following her competition on Saturday, Australia’s Maddison Keeney told ABC News, “Today was pretty gross. You’re standing on the stairs and you can’t see your feet, one and half meters down. When you’re standing up there it’s a bit off-putting. I’ve never had a pool like this ever before. I just try to close my eyes and close my mouth. Hopefully I am going up and not down.”

Although Andrada claimed the swamp-colored water and chlorine is not a risk to the athletes’ health, he mentioned to Olympic reporters, “Of course it is an embarrassment because we are hosting the Olympic Games. It should be light blue, transparent. We could have done better in fixing it quickly. We learned a painful lesson the hard way.”

NBC Olympics media reports Gustavo Nascimento, who oversees venue management for Rio 2016, says the water switch out process can take 10 hours, but efforts should be completed by Sunday morning, ahead of the first synchronized swimming event. The dirty water removed from the green pool will be disposed in the city’s sewage system, which is already under scrutiny for waste being pumped into waters used for rowing, canoeing, sailing, triathlon, and open water swimming.

With competition hours away, let’s hope the 2016 Rio Olympic green pools are cleared for swimming.

[Photo by Matt Dunham/AP Photos]