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German sailor’s infection puts heat on Rio organisers

German sailor Erik Heil, who was third at the Rio De Janeiro Olympic test last week, is being treated for several infections which he says were caused by the polluted waters during the regatta there, piling more pressure on organisers to move the location of next year’s sailing event.

His case has been taken up by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), which said it would now be escalated to Rio 2016 Games organisers and the international sailing federation.

The Brazilian metropolis will host the summer Games, the first South American city to do so, but it is struggling with polluted waters on which the athletes will compete.

Heil, who won third spot along with Thomas Ploessel in the 49er class, was told by the Berlin hospital treating him daily that he had been infected by multi-resistant germs, the German sailing team said.

“I have never in my life had infections on the legs. Never!” Heil said on the sailing team’s Olympic blog.

“I assume I picked that up at the test regatta. The cause should be the Marina da Gloria where their is a constant flow of waste water from the city’s hospitals.”

The organising committee for Rio 2016 did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Heil’s case, but spokesman Mario Andrada insisted at a news conference on Thursday that the sailing will not be moved.

The pressure is mounting, however.German sailor's infection puts heat on Rio organisers

Buzios, a beach resort and popular watersports destination a few hours out of Rio, is campaigning to replace Guanabara Bay for next year’s Olympic sailing and has organised a press visit this weekend to show it has the infrastructure and water quality necessary to host the event.

“We contacted Erik Heil and the German sailing federation and are taking this case seriously,” DOSB CEO Michael Vesper said in an email to Reuters,

“The (German) sailing federation will inform Rio 2016 organisers and the international sailing federation.

“I already raised the issue of water quality during last week’s chef de mission (team chiefs) meeting in Rio and the mayor of the city said it was their responsibility as this was not an Olympic problem but a problem of the city of Rio that needs to be tackled and solved,” Vesper said.

Biologists last year said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria resistant to antibiotics that cure urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.

“We will try to arrive relatively late to Rio in the future so that any illness appears towards the end of the regatta or even when we are back home,” Heil said in his blog.

“We are also considering with Thomas to sail out of the marina with plastic covers and then wear our normal neopren shoes further out on the water,” Heil said.

When Rio bid to host the Games, the city trumpeted the clean up and said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent.

However, it has since admitted it is unlikely to meet that target saying earlier this year the amount of sewage treated before reaching the bay had risen from 17 to 49 percent.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer in Rio de Janeiro, editing by Ed Osmond)

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