“Absolutely not,” NBC Olympics correspondent Mary Carillo said today when asked by Olympics primetime host Bob Costas if she intended to take a dip into the polluted waters where swimmers and sailing teams will be competing during the Rio Games.
Carillo, who is covering “open water swimming” the second week of the Games for NBC, told TV critics at TCA that researchers have assured her the water was “worse” than Rio’s in the Serpentine in Hyde Park where Olympics swimmers competed during the 2012 London Summer Games. That was because of the goose “droppings,” than in the Hyde Park water; the water in the Rio de Janeiro bay, where some Olympics competitions are being held, is contaminated with raw human sewage, among other contaminants.
NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell said “multiple test events” in the walk-up to the Rio Games have produced “zero problems thus far”as a result of the water. He did, however, acknowledge the raw human sewage in the water has been part of the storyline walking up to the Games.
Days ahead of the Games, the Rio waterways are contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, putting some 1,400 athletes at risk of becoming “violently ill in water competitions,” according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by AP, the latest update of which was published Monday of this week.
Opening Ceremonies will air Friday at 7:30 PM, though some competition starts tomorrow. Bell, Carillo and Costas spoke to TCA via satellite from Rio, where the opening ceremonies will be held on Friday, broadcast in the U.S. at 7:30 PM ET.
Costas conceded that NBC’s coverage of “every bit of competition that takes place” in the open water will have to include discussion of the water conditions.That’s particularly the case since “the best [competitors] have been told, by officials, is to keep your mouth closed, which is difficult to do when swimming, or “don’t put your head under water,” he said. “I guess some new [swimming] techniques will be required,” Costas snarked, following closely in the footsteps of a Stephen Colbert late-night gag about same, on Monday night.
“I’m not trying to be facetious,” Costas promised.
Zika virus and the raw sewage in the water aren’t the only problems plaguing the Rio Games. Also on the list: armed robberies of competitors, uninhabitable housing, and ISIS urging supporters to launch “high-quality” attacks during particularly against Israelis, Frenchmen, Brits and Americans.
One reporter, noting NBC’s license fee for the Games accounts for a huge chunk of International Olympic Committee revenue, asked whether NBC bears “responsibility” if something bad happened to competitors or guests during the Rio Games.
“No. I don’t think so,” Bell said.
Costas saved Bell from inevitable blowback to that curt response, jumping in:
“The Olympic were going to happen. You can make an argument – I don’t know if it would be persuasive – that the IOC should have, in light of problems that emerged months ago, considered moving, or postponing, the Games,” he said. “But once they are being held, the network that owned the rights to televise those Games was going to televise those Games.”
NBC intends to cover the competition “thoroughly and credibly,” the Olympics broadcast veteran insisted, adding that “if and when” any of the problems plaguing Rio impact the competition “we would not shy away, as NBC Sports and NBC Olympics.” And, Costas added, NBC News is there “in full force, led by Lester Holt.”
Asked if NBC could/should have leveraged its financial clout with the IOC to get the Games moved or postponed, as more than a hundred doctors internationally had advocated a couple months earlier, Costas said he was not dodging the question but was not qualified to answer.
Bell, meanwhile, responded, again, “I don’t think so.” But this time he added, “We live in a world where there are going to be issues wherever we have the Games. Now you could make the case Zika is a bigger story in Florida than in Rio, where it is winter, and cooler and drier. Is Disneyland responsible for bringing people to Florida now?”
NBCU also has a theme park in Florida, in Orlando.