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Will Brazil Be Ready For Summer Olympics? The Athletes Weigh In


It's a year until the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and despite worries over construction quality and delays, Brazil is promising that everything is on track. All this week, Rio has been running Olympic test events. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro spent this morning at one venue, itself the subject of controversy over the quality of its water.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: The rowing Olympic test matches are underway in Rio de Janeiro's lagoon. It's a beautiful, cloudless day, and there is, as you can hear, a lot of excitement.


JENNIFER MOFFAT: I am beyond excited. We've been looking forward to this for months, and I just can't believe it's finally happening.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Jennifer Moffat from Manlius, N.Y., who's here watching her daughter row. These test events allow organizers to make sure that facilities are working and to run through operations - kind of like dress rehearsals. And so far, so good on what's happening on the surface of the water. Last week though, an Associated Press investigation found that the water quality here is basically equivalent to raw sewage. So we decided to ask one of the U.S. coaches here about whether or not there should be a change of venue.

CONAL GROOM: The conditions have been great. The water is a great lake to row on and pretty. It's fair. So if FISA has us racing - if the - our governing body has us racing, then we're not worried.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Conal Groom, who coaches the men's sculling team. He says at this point, most Olympians have been training for this course.

GROOM: It's a sport that looks really simple - a bunch of round buoys in a body water - but there's a lot of technical stuff. You know, the athletes and the infrastructure have just put too much work to prepare for this course, this setting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Other athletes agreed. Both the world sailing and rowing bodies have said they will be testing the waters for viruses, something that they weren't doing before, but they haven't called for a change of location. And Rio is promising it will try and improve water conditions before the games. So it seems for now, all will go ahead as planned.

But as one Brazilian resident of the city quipped to me outside the rowing venue, I'm sure it'll be a fine for the athletes, but we will have to deal with our terrible water long after the Olympians are gone. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.