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Rio 2016 - ISAF reacts to hospitalization of Pre-Olympic medalist

by Sail-World.com on 29 Aug 2015
Bronze medalists, Erik Heil and Thomas Plossel (GER) sailing in the 2015 Pre-Olympic Test regatta, Rio de Janeiro Sailing Energy/ISAF
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) says is aware of the admittance to hospital of the German 49er sailor Erik Heil, says the the world sailing body in an apparent reaction to the story broken in Sail-World and Yacht.de of the admittance to a Berlin hospital of the Bronze medal winner in the recently concluded Pre-Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro.

Heil found he was breaking out in severe skin inflammations at the end of the regatta, a condition which worsened on his flight home. One of these inflammed areas was lanced without the use of anesthetic, another developed a boil-like core which was removed, leaving a hole in Heil's leg.

Tests are still being conducted, as are with at least two other cases where sailors were stricken with apparently pollution related ailments. The tests are expected to reveal whether the sailors' condition is a result of sailing on severely polluted water, or is a normal occurrence which could have occurred at any regatta of this type.

Heil's hospitalisation has now become a mainstream news item. In an item on the BBC they report that 'Research has shown that 'super-bacteria' found in the water is usually found in hospital waste and produce an enzyme, KPC, resistant to antibiotics.'

'Nearly 70% of sewage in Rio - a city of some 10 million people - is spilled raw into the waters of Guanabara Bay,' says the international broadcaster.

Heil claimed that the water he had to sail through contained discharged waste from the local hospital and other sources.

The sailors and their teams seem to be generally unfazed by the issue. None have come out publicly, other than Heil, commenting on the pollution issue. Some have commented that they believe can implement medical procedures which will ensure that their team becomes immune to the effects of pollution and can use that to their competitive advantage in the 2016 Olympics.


In its statement, ISAF says it is working closely with the Deutscher Segler Verband, the German Member National Authority, to ensure Erik fully recovers fully in advance of a busy period that includes the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final and 49er World Championship.

Erik backs up the earlier story in Sail-World and Yacht.de commenting in the ISAF published statement:

'We have been sailing in Rio for a few years, training and preparing for the Olympic Games. I feel as though I got the infection from the launching ramp in the Marina da Gloria, as the water quality was the worst there. Compared to the 2014 test event, the water quality inside and outside of Guanabara Bay was a bit better because it had not rained in Rio in the weeks before the test event.

'I hope the improvements promised for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be fulfilled and no athletes will deal with health issues, leaving a legacy for the city of Rio de Janeiro.'

The health and welfare of the athletes is a top priority for ISAF, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee (Rio 2016) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Water quality is an important aspect at all Olympic Games and is regularly addressed between ISAF, the IOC and Rio 2016.

ISAF, Rio 2016, the IOC, the Brazilian Government, Rio State Environment Institute (INEA) and State Environment Agency (SEA) are all working together to prepare for Rio 2016, and Brazilian authorities are working to guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the safety of Marina da Gloria and a fair field of play for the athletes.

Throughout the recent test event, ISAF worked closely with Rio 2016 sustainability and the local government to ensure the racing areas were safe for fair competition.

Measures taken to increase safety include a new pipeline that will divert sewage from Marina da Gloria, ready by November 2015, well in advance of the Olympic Games, which compliments the other proactive measures around the Guanabara Bay, such as closing landfills, reducing industrial pollution and increasing water treatment works.

The Rio organizers' focus has remained on delivering excellent sporting competitions for sailing. While work remains to be done, ISAF, Rio 2016 and all relevant local authorities are confident that the venue will be ready to host 380 sailors during the Olympic Sailing Competition in one year's time.

ISAF continues to support and track all activities related to improving the water conditions in the competition areas. We are working with our partners to ensure fair sailing and that the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition is a fantastic event for athletes, spectators and TV viewers.

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