Why Are The Rio Olympic Pools Turning Green? It's Not A Risk To Athletes, But... Still

Since the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro kicked off last week, both diehard Team USA fans (hi, Leslie Jones!) and and casual spectators have experienced some pretty amazing feats right alongside our athletes — or from our couches, anyway. Like, oh, swimming powerhouse Michael Phelps winning his 21st Olympic gold medal, for one super casual example. Now, another mysterious aquatic phenomenon is upon us, and I know some of the world's very best water athletes aren't thrilled about why the Olympic pools in Rio are turning green.

On Tuesday, the water in the pools at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center, where the diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming action is going down, turned a bright, bright green — not at all the nice, healthy, heavily chlorinated blue that is normal and expected. After some dismayed speculation splashed its green, green waves over social media, FINA, the international body that governs swimming and diving offered competing explanations as to why, eventually issuing a statement that it had run out of chemicals used in the water treatment process, but insisting that everything was still A-OK.

The organization made it clear, according to CNN, that the Olympic organizers were reportedly 100 percent at fault for the snafu.

In response to the curiosity (and onslaught of media inquiries, probably) surrounding the strange color change, FINA offered the following explanation Wednesday afternoon, Vice Sports reported:

FINA can confirm that the reason for the unusual water color observed during the Rio 2016 diving competitions is that the water tanks ran out some of the chemicals used in the water treatment process. As a result the pH level of the water was outside the usual range, causing the discolouration. The FINA Sport Medicine Committee conducted tests on the water quality and concluded that there was no risk to the health and safety of the athletes, and no reason for the competition to be affected.

But before settling on this conclusion, though, the various entities brainstormed other possible culprits for the green hue. A representative from Rio 2016 local organizing committee blamed a sudden change in alkalinity, Reuters reported. Then, the organizing body blamed an algae bloom caused a lack of heat or wind, according to CNN. The New York Times reported that Olympic officials who had conducted "extensive tests" were blaming the green water on a chemical imbalance that manifested because there were too many people in the water.


Now that they've (reportedly) determined what, exactly, the problem is, they can go about remedying it. Yay, sports!

Rio, of course, is contending with various challenges — rampant Zika virus, heavily polluted waterways on which athletes are competing, and scary gang violence — that caused international skepticism as to whether the country was equipped to host the massive event. The green water that athletes jokingly referred to as a "swamp" may not reach that magnitude (and it's supposed to be back to normal on Thursday), but it's still not a great sign for organizers working hard to ensure that these Games are a success in every sense.