Time to close those muscular, well-trained mouths, water-bound Olympians: Both the diving and the water polo pools have inexplicably turned green.
The color change first occurred in the diving pool yesterday, right around the start of the women’s synchronized 10-meter platform diving competition, and has since migrated over to the adjacent water polo pool. Olympics spokesperson Mario Andrada told the Associated Press that the sudden color change was caused “by a proliferation of algae” due to “heat and lack of wind,” noting that officials have tested the water and have found “no risk to the athletes’ health,” no matter how gross the pool might seem. Andrada also said on Tuesday that the pools should clear up at some point today, but let’s just take that with a grain of salt, given the new greenish hue of the polo pool and the fact that we’re talking about the Rio Olympics here.
Meanwhile, pool professionals here in the U.S. seem to have an idea what’s up, with one pool cleaner—Steve Henderson of AAA Pool Service in Santa Rosa, California—telling The New York Times that it’s one of two things: a sudden algae bloom, which could easily be eradicated by throwing some extra chlorine in the water overnight, or a chemical reaction between the chlorine that’s already in the water and some kind of metal, probably manganese. Henderson told the Times that the chemical reaction is a normal problem but that he was puzzled why his Brazilian counterparts couldn’t figure it out. “I don’t know what they have down there in Rio,” said Henderson, “but any new commercial system, at least here in the U.S., is completely automated. They self-test. If there’s an issue, everyone is alerted right away. I have some customers where I can monitor their pools from my phone.”
Interestingly, the athletes don’t seem to mind the color change, with the Times noting that none of the divers had their forms affected by the water’s “swampiness.” Though some of the divers, like the United Kingdom’s Tom Daley, found it off-putting to look at and said they’d never seen anything like it, others, like Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito, told the Times that “on sunny days, blue water can sometimes make diving more difficult, since it’s hard to distinguish between the sky and water as divers rotate in the air.” Thus, the green water may have actually helped some divers, though she notes that both she and her diving partner “kept our mouths shut, just in case.”
— Marc Smith (@iamnotmiserable) August 10, 2016