Conditions for the 2016 Summer Olympics' 10k swim won't be great. Higher than expected winds mean choppy water. The temperature will be slightly cooler than the typical open water event. But while the situation is less than ideal, these endurance swimmers won't have to deal with the much-hyped, raw sewage-containing, super bacteria-cultivating hell water you've probably read about.
The 10k event is Olympic swimming's marathon equivalent. It's a freestyle competition and the only race at the games to take place outdoors in open water. It has only been a part of the modern games since 2008.
Monday and Tuesday's races will take place off Copacabana Beach, where a substantial current keeps away most of the nasty stuff that makes Guanabara Bay so unpleasant. While heavy rains can push the bacteria count in the water into the danger zone, relatively dry conditions leading up to this week's distance events have kept the water safe for endurance swimmers and vacationers alike. All those people you see at the beach in the background of NBC's coverage desk at the games? They're swimming in the same relatively benign water you'll see in the 10k.
Thanks to its location at the mouth of the Bay, Copacabana Beach avoids much of the raw sewage that gets trapped further north. While it's not immune to Rio's environmental problems, its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean helps it maintain much cleaner water than oft-disparaged pollution juice near Governador Island.
The results from a test event held near the beach last summer back this up. FINA, international swimming's governing body, studied athletes before and after the event and confirmed no one got sick after swimming Rio de Janeiro's open course. "We've had regular water quality updates from FINA that have been done on the Copacabana water quality," said Swimming Canada high performance director John Atkinson. "We feel that we have a good plan in place."
In fact, the water has been less of a concern than the structures built for the event. High tides damaged the starting blocks on Friday, forcing the cancellation of Saturday practices. That didn't affect Monday's women's race and shouldn't play a part in Tuesday's men's race either.