The 2016 Olympic Games might be a health disaster as problems are piling up for the Brazilian event.

Rio de Janeiro is regarded by many as unsafe for hosting the Summer Olympics. Photo by Donatas Dabravolskas.

Just a few days ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) rejected a call from researchers to delay/reschedule the 2016 Olympics due to the Zika epidemic, and there’s even more reason to worry now. Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events, as well as in the lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete in August.

The results come from two unpublished academic studies, and are backed by several other studies published in the past couple of years. The main takeaway seems to be that Rio’s sewage-infested waterways are unsafe and they harbor several potentially dangerous bacteria – especially “super-bacteria” which are resistant to most treatments and can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, as well as meningitis.

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Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university and lead researcher of the first study, says that Rio’s contamination comes from the lack of basic sanitation which aside for the athletes who will compete in the Olympic Games, also threatens the city’s 12 million inhabitants.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Cleaning the waterways and ensuring proper sanitation should have been one of the city’s main priorities for the Summer Olympics, but the project has proven to be a complete failure. Battling with a Zika pandemic, led by a highly corrupt government and riddled by poverty, Brazil is viewed by many as being unfit to host the Olympics. The city is also facing a drastic water crisis, but the WHO and organizers seem adamant and won’t budge even slightly – the games will take place as scheduled, despite all these worrying signs.

Health experts say Rio’s poor wastewater management is already creating endemic illnesses, affecting especially the city’s poor and causing gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, Hepatitis A and severe heart and brain conditions.