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Rio organisers contemplate heating the ocean

While many commentators have worried about the water quality at the Rio Olympics and the possible impact on open water swimming, officials at FINA are more concerned about the water temperature. Earlier this year a committee at FINA debated the use of wetsuits at elite events and have proposed rule changes that are expected to come into effect in September that will make wetsuits compulsory in water temperatures under 18 degrees. However, this will not be in time for this summer’s Olympics where there is a very real possibility that the water temperature will be low.

The proposed solution is to relocated the open water swimming venue some 200km south of Rio de Janerio to Itaorna Beach, which is also the location of Brazil’s only nuclear power station, the Angra Nuclear Power Plant.

The power station is cooled by water from the ocean. The plant operators have been instructed to install a new series of pipes to return the cooling water to the ocean at strategic locations around the bay where the new 10km swim course (four laps of 2.5km) will be set up. As the cooling water is heated as it passes through the power station it is expected that the average temperature on the race course will be lifted by around three to four degrees.

A spokesperson for FINA says: “Our main concern is the welfare of the swimmers. Not only will the new location reduce the risk of swimmers getting ill from pollution, it will avoid anyone getting hypothermia.”

We contacted one of the swimmers who’s already qualified for the event. He asked that we didn’t reveal his name but said, “I am really pleased. As well as being warmer, the radiation in the water will also mean we will be nuclear-powered, so hopefully we will post some really quick times.”