Rio Olympics 2016: Athletes’ Water Fright?

The Rio Olympics 2016 officially kicks off this weekend with the opening ceremony taking place in the Maracan Stadium which promises to be a great location with the world famous Christ the Redeemer statue towering over it.

The Olympics this year has been marred by a lot of controversy due to the outbreak of the Zika virus and the concerns over water pollution in Guanabara Bay.

The Zika virus was announced by the World Health Organisation as a global public health emergency. The virus is carried by mosquitos, and it has been linked to neurological problems in adults and has allegedly lead to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.The government of Brazil had issued a warning to pregnant women to stay away from the games. An assessment carried out by the WHO’s emergency committee concluded that the virus poses no threat to residents, spectators and athletes, and has a low risk of spreading internationally as a result of Rio games. Despite this many athletes have pulled out of the games following fears for their families and their own health. This includes top Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, tennis player Miles Raonic and many others. There are also many top athletes who have voiced their concern over Zika included UK heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and US footballer Hope Solo.

Water Issue

Barbara Walton/EPA
Barbara Walton/EPA

While the beaches of Rio provide what seems like the perfect picturesque backdrop for the 2016 Olympics, the water has been found to be so polluted at times with untreated waste that it can be damaging to health. This lead the United Nations to recommend that competitors and spectators spend as little time in the water as possible.

The latest advice from the WHO was:

“It is suggested that all athletes should cover cuts and grazes with waterproof plasters prior to exposure, try to avoid swallowing the water, wash/shower as soon as possible after exposure and, as far as possible, minimize their time in the water and avoid getting into the water after heavy rainfall if possible”.

It is is suggested that areas such as Guanabara Bay, Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoa (rowing) and Copacabana Beach (triathlon) are full of pathogens, and that swallowing just three teaspoons of the water could lead to severe respiratory and stomach illnesses [1].

There will be over 1,400 athletes out of the 10,000 competing that will be exposed to the water in Rio. This has led to many athletes to take antibiotics and train in protective suits to prevent infection.

Reaction Online

Our analysis shows that the general feelings towards Rio 2016 are positive with an Adorescore of 50. The main high intensity emotions evoked onTwitter are ecstasy, admiration and loathing. The emotions of ecstasy and admiration are not surprising due to the excitement leading up to opening ceremony this weekend. The presence of loathing is a bit more surprising, although the Zika outbreak, water issues and the withdrawal of key athletes could be the main driver of this negative emotion.

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So how do the athletes who have to compete in the water feel about the Olympics?

The athlete’s analysed were triathlete Non Stanford and rower Helen Glover, both competing for Team GB.
The issues in Rio don’t seem to be negatively affecting these two athletes too much. Both Stanford and Glover’s Twitter feeds have high Adorescores of 66 and 69 respectively. The reigning high intensity emotions for both competitors are ecstasy and admiration. The emerging themes from their tweets have been messages of good luck, thank you messages and pride in supporting charitable causes.

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We compared these with two indoor swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte both competing for Team USA.

Similar to the outdoor athletes Phelps and Lochte are also sending out the positive vibes through their online channels, with their Adorescores being 46 and 62 respectively. Again they are echoing messages of good luck and gratitude for the support that they have been receiving, with their two main high intensity emotions being ecstasy and admiration.

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So there you have it! Even though there our newsfeeds have been flooded with negative press about the 2016 Rio Olympics, the athletes and spectators are remaining positive. The excitement and ecstasy surrounding this year’s games is growing. So whatever team you are supporting, Rio 2016 is sure to provide some enjoyable and interesting sports entertainment!

Let the games begin!




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