Timeline of Rio Olympic water testing broken promises

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A timeline of key moments since The Associated Press first reported on contamination of Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic waterways:

July 30 – The Associated Press publishes its first story based on data from five months of viral and bacterial testing of Rio’s venues for Olympic water sports. The levels of disease-causing viruses were similar to those found in raw sewage. The medical director of the International Olympic Committee says in response that there are no plans to change venues and that the World Health Organization, which acts in an advisory role for the IOC, has reassured Olympic officials there is “no significant risk of athlete health.”

July 31 – The Rio de Janeiro state government and the state environmental agency blast the AP report as alarmist and say it is unfair to judge Rio’s waters based on viral counts, limits of which are not designated in Brazilian legislation – or most nations. They also question the qualifications of the laboratory where the AP samples were analyzed. David Zee, an oceanography professor at Rio’s state university who has studied pollution in Guanabara Bay for decades and had no part in the AP study, says: “It’s natural that the authorities react saying that `everything is fine,’ but everything is not fine.” He says the AP testing “was done in a trustworthy lab.”

Aug. 1 – WHO tells the AP in an emailed statement that it has now “advised the IOC to widen the scientific base of indicators to include viruses. The risk assessment should be revised accordingly, pending the results of further analysis.” The International Sailing Federation becomes the first to break with the IOC, saying it will carry out its own viral testing of Rio’s waters.

Aug. 2 – IOC reverses course. “The WHO is saying they are recommending viral testing,” IOC’s medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, tells the AP. “We’ve always said we will follow the expert advice, so we will now be asking the appropriate authorities in Rio to follow the expert advice, which is for viral testing.”

Aug. 4 – Matt Smith, head of World Rowing, says that “together with the WHO and the IOC, we’re going to follow what they say. We will ask that viral testing is done. If there is a problem, we will react. It’s our moral duty.”

Aug. 10 – WHO changes direction, telling the AP in an email that it “will not issue an `official recommendation’ on viral testing.” It says that “viral testing would not help significantly in the measurement and assessment of water quality.” This statement contradicts WHO’s own published studies showing little to no correlation between the levels of bacterial and viral markers in water – meaning that just testing for bacteria alone tells experts little about the amount of disease-causing viruses in recreational waters. Also on this day, the AP learns 13 American rowers became sick with stomach illness at the World Junior Rowing Championship held the previous four days.

Aug. 12 – IOC rules out viral testing of Rio’s waters. Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi says IOC will be sticking to WHO guidelines recommending only bacterial testing. “WHO is very clear that bacterial testing is what should be followed,” Dubi says at a news conference in Rio.

Aug. 14 – WHO again reverses course. In a telephone interview with the AP, Bruce Gordon, WHO’s top water safety expert, says that while bacterial testing is the global standard, “WHO would support additional viral testing to further inform the risk assessment by authorities and to verify and address concerns raised by independent testing. In this case, measuring coliphages and enteric viruses would be advisable.”

Aug. 15 – International Sailing Federation changes its stance. Dr. Nebojsa Nikolic, the federation’s top medical official, tells the AP that “we will certainly not” do viral testing.

Sept. 1 – Carlos Nuzman, head of Rio’s local Olympic organizing committee, tells the AP in an interview that “we will do” viral tests and says work is already underway to understand how best to carry out the viral analysis.

Sept. 16 – The international swimming federation calls for Olympic officials to carry out viral testing in Rio, according to an internal document obtained by the AP. The federation “and its Sports Medicine Committee strongly recommend that viral tests should also be performed,” it says in a letter to Olympic organizers.

Oct. 16 – WHO again changes course, issuing a statement saying it recommends only bacterial testing for Rio’s Olympics. It says there is “a lack of standardized methods and difficulty interpreting results” for routine testing of viruses. Mario Andrada, spokesman for Rio’s Olympic organizing committee, says they consider that to be “the final instructions for Rio 2016” and that viral testing will not be done.

Oct. 24 – WHO, in an emailed statement, says its comment “not recommending `routine’ viral testing is not analogous to WHO recommending that Brazil do nothing and that WHO is unconcerned with viral pathogens in water. … In fact, we have experts engaged on examining the best monitoring protocols and we will be discussing virus testing at an upcoming meeting in Brazil.”

VIDEO: Aerial Rio Olympic Park progress update

Sweden weighs 2030 Winter Olympic bid after IOC meeting

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Sweden’s Olympic leaders are weighing up whether to bid for the Winter Games in 2030.

The Nordic country’s potential entry into the race to stage the 2030 Games comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee has delayed the process and is searching around for more contenders to host the event.

Sapporo, Japan, was considered the favorite before an ongoing bid-rigging scandal related to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo held in 2021. Salt Lake City is the only other known bidder that might consider taking 2030, though officials have said they favor a bid for 2034.

A joint Stockholm-Are bid from Sweden lost out to another shared bid, from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, to stage the Winter Games in 2026 amid a lack of clear public support in Sweden and some government upheaval at local and national level in the run-up to the vote.

There was reportedly discontent in Stockholm over how the Swedish bid was treated in the contest for the 2026 Games.

The Swedish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and the Swedish Sports Confederation will start a feasibility study for 2030, they said Wednesday. A report from the study will be presented on April 20.

“These are new times now and the feasibility study will show how the Olympics and Paralympics can be shaped based on Sweden’s conditions,” said Anders Larsson, acting chairman of the Swedish Olympic Committee. “We already have virtually all the arenas required to arrange the largest Winter Games.”

The committee’s secretary general, Åsa Edlund Jönsson, said the 2030 Games “could be a campfire to rally Sweden around.”

“The idea is to review the concept that existed for the candidacy in 2026, which would mean competitions in several places in Sweden,” Jönsson said, specifically referencing Stockholm and the regions of Dalarna and Jämtland. “Here we feel confident that there is great experience in arranging world-class winter championships in the Swedish sports movement.”

The Stockholm-Are bid for 2026 even included plans to stage ice-sliding sports across the Baltic Sea at a venue in Latvia to avoid building a white elephant venue in Sweden — a key demand of IOC reforms to cut Olympic hosting costs.

The idea of Sweden potentially joining the 2030 race came up at a meeting in Lausanne in January.

“We have had a meeting with the IOC that was about, without obligation from any quarter, looking at the Games in 2030,” Larsson said. “During that meeting, it was clear that the IOC liked our concept for 2026. What the feasibility study will provide answers to is whether we are ready to move forward in the process.”

Sweden hosted the Summer Olympics in 1912 but never a Winter Games, despite the country being an established giant in winter sports.

It has made eight failed bids to stage the Winter Games.

Gunilla Lindberg, who is on the Swedish Olympic Committee, is also an IOC member and on its panel tasked with finding potential future hosts for the Winter Games.

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USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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