Saturday, August 13, 2016

It's Not Easy Cleaning Green

With all of the focus on the raw sewage likely to fill the outdoor Olympic water events such as rowing, most people could be forgiven thinking that the indoor water, at least, would be OK. This isn't Venezuela, after all. You don't have to wait for your incompetent socialist president to die to unload him or her, and water still comes out of the taps when you turn them.

But turns out the folks who said Rio De Janeiro's crew weren't ready for the Olympics were probably right as regards some of the swimming and diving events too. Both the diving pool and the water polo pool have turned bright green, with the diving pool now so murky that there's no visibility. Fortunately for the competition, Olympic divers are judged by what they do above the water rather than what they do once they've entered it.

Water polo players have complained about eye irritation, and each new day brings the promise of a cleaned-up pool and a new explanation for the problem. For the record, a guy who helps run a pool cleaning company, as quoted in the New York Times, said the problem was most likely metals in the water. If the water supply has enough copper in it, then the addition of chlorine oxidizes the copper and turns the water green and murky. So essentially, the Rio Olympics are holding their diving and water polo events in rusty water. Neil Young, call your office.

The kicker is the quote from the Rio 2016 spokesman at the end of the Times story. When confronted with the string of failed promises of resolution and lame excuses, he fell back on this: "Chemistry's not an exact science." Which would be news to my high school chemistry teacher and the C+ she laid on my report card.

Public relations spokespersoning, though -- now that is by no means an exact science. When the only correct answer is "We screwed up and we don't know how," then one can choose from an endless supply of incorrect ones.

ETA Sunday: The venue managers have definitively said that someone added hydrogen peroxide to the pool by mistake, which turned the water green. Since they won't be able to clean it in time for synchronized swimming, they're pumping the water out of the pool and pumping in water from a practice pool.

Oh, and they're very embarrassed over how many times they said the problem would be cleared up the next day and it wasn't.

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