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Green swimming pools cause ripples, confusion at Rio Olympics

Organizers say low alkaline levels and algae caused the color change

Published: Updated:

Athletes and audiences alike were left baffled on Tuesday after the Olympic diving pool turned bright green overnight, leading to jokes about algae, dye and even St. Patrick’s Day on social media.

The confusion continued when the third day of the men’s water polo tournament also began in green-tinged water, though not nearly as dark as the neighboring diving pool.

It, too, was crystal blue the day before.

Water quality has been a major issue surrounding the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but in the ocean and lagoons, not the pools.

So what’s going on?

Organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada told AP that a decrease in the alkaline level in the diving well Tuesday afternoon is to blame for the murky waters.

“We expect the color to be back to blue very shortly,” said Andrada.

Rio 2016 organizers said tests at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre’s diving pool found that the water was no risk to health, although they were still investigating the reports stating that algae growth is to blame.

The executive director of swimming’s world governing body FINA told Reuters that the problem may have come from a faulty filter or problematic water quality.

“No danger for divers, just not a good image for Olympic Broadcasting Services,” said FINA’s Cornel Marculescu, adding that he was not sure how quickly the pool water could be brought back to its normal color.

Most divers said the color was no issue, even though the pool’s water was perfectly blue during the men’s 10-meter platform event on Monday.

“When we were practicing to get used to this venue (the water) was always sky blue...But we’re always mentally prepared for unexpected situations,” China's Liu Huixia, who won the gold medal with partner Chen Ruolin, told Reuters.

Bronze medalist Meaghan Benfeito of Canada told reporters that the color had made her and her partner Roseline Filion want to laugh, but the green actually helped. “It’s not the same color as the sky so that was really on our side.”

The problem comes on top of worries over dangerous levels of pollution in Rio’s Guanabara Bay and concerns that floating garbage could damage or slow sailors.

The pools have yet to return to their normal hue.

More social media responses to the green pools:

(With AP, Reuters)