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Green Water a Headache for Olympic Organizers

  • Parke Brewer

This photo captured by VOA's Parke Brewer show contrasting colors of the pools in Rio de Janeiro, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

This photo captured by VOA's Parke Brewer show contrasting colors of the pools in Rio de Janeiro, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

One of the first things spectators have noticed this week when they entered the Maria Lenk Aquatics center in the Rio Olympic Park is that the water is a different color in the two pools.

The bigger pool at the outdoor venue, which has been staging water polo, is the closest to being the normal blue, while the diving pool is green.

“On day four of the games – Tuesday – the water turned green,” Gustavo Nascimento, Rio director of venue management, told a news conference Saturday. “Of course we investigated the causes that put us in this situation."

Mario Andrada, Rio Organizing committee (l) and Gustavo Nascimento, Rio director of venue management (r) during Saturday news conference on green water, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Mario Andrada, Rio Organizing committee (l) and Gustavo Nascimento, Rio director of venue management (r) during Saturday news conference on green water, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Nascimento said there are two possibilities of what made the water change color, or maybe a combination of both, adding that the chemicals that created the situation are already gone.

Eighty liters of hydrogen peroxide were added to the water on the day of the Opening Ceremonies, Aug. 5, and he said it created a reaction to the chlorine that neutralized the chlorine's ability to kill organics -- but he did not come out and say it was algae.

Official: No health concern

Nascimento insisted the green-colored water has not created any health concern, and the athletes have been making their dives into it with no apparent problems or major complaints.

“We have been working on stabilizing the chemistry with the focus on the safety of the athletes, on the health of the athletes first and foremost; secondly respecting the competition schedule,” he said.

Nascimento said they had been trying to correct the problem for four days, but it just wasn't going as fast as they had hoped.

With synchronized swimming to begin on Sunday, which requires clear water for both the competitors and judges to be able to see, Nascimento said officials are taking the drastic measure of changing the water.

“We're going to grab the water from the warm-up pool and we're going to drain the water from the competition pool, and we're going to insert this water from the warm-up pool into the competition pool,” he explained.

Water changed overnight

Nascimento said the procedure would take place overnight.

“It's very unfortunate that these kinds of things happen,” said Mario Andrada, Rio organizing committee spokesman who was also at the news conference. “We are here to support the athletes who train their whole lives to perform at their best in the best conditions possible, but we do not want in any way, shape or form to put the athletes' health and safety at risk.”

Mario Andrada, Rio Organizing committee spot after news conference, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Mario Andrada, Rio Organizing committee spot after news conference, Aug. 13, 2016, Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Andrada said Rio organizers have had their fair share of problems in what he called “this journey” of hosting the Olympics.

But he said since the Games have started, instead of a relaxed approach, they have shown their ability to tackle problems as quickly as possible.

At least for now, they are looking into how a mistake by a contractor led to this awkward Olympic green pool situation.

“Of course, it's an embarrassment because we are hosting the Olympic Games,” Andrada said. “The world is here, the best athletes are here, so the water is not meant to be an issue. It should be light blue, transparent. And also we should have -- and could have -- done better in fixing it quickly.”

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