UNIVERSITY PARK -- Curtis Jordan, high performance director for USRowing, has been to eight Olympic Games. There always seem to be issues beyond the athletic competition. Among them, terrorism, measles, weather, and fairness of the course, he said Wednesday, mentioning some of the problems of the past.
But never pollution, now a huge controversy in Rio de Janeiro, which will be hosting the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Bottom line, we're definitely concerned about pollution in Rio, as is FISA, the International Rowing Federation," Jordan said in a phone interview from Aiguebelette, France.
Aiguebelette is hosting the 2015 World Rowing Championships, Aug. 30 - Sept. 6.
The U.S. rowers who will be taking part in the Rio Olympics will have their trials April 18-24, 2016, at Nathan Benderson Park, located near the Manatee-Sarasota county line off Interstate 75.
They will then move on to Rio for the Olympics, Aug. 5-21.
The lead-up to the Olympics has been anything but smooth with protests against pollution this month on Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay.
"Water quality is definitely an issue for us. We are clearly concerned about the health and welfare of our athletes. We had several athletes get sick in Rio this month at our test event, as did several other countries," said Jordan, who splits his time between Sarasota and Princeton, N.J.
The U.S. team doctor for the World Junior Rowing Championships suspected the stomach illness came from a polluted lake that hosted the competition.
Even though U.S. officials are doing all they can to push for a cleanup of Rio waterways, Jordan is doubtful Brazil will be able to achieve pristine conditions before the Olympics.
"All of the powers-that-be are looking into the quality of the water. Is it safe? Is there anything that we can do make it safer?" he said.
"We are doing everything possible to mitigate the situation," he said, including vaccinations, and training of the athletes and medical staff to avoid sickness from polluted water.
The United States Olympic Committee has conducted a study of the pollution problem, and is still evaluating the issue, Jordan said.
The Olympic regatta is held over eight days in the first week of the Olympic Games, according to the FISA website.
Paul Blackketter, president of Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, referred questions about pollution in Rio to Jordan, who is also a board member of SANCA.
Ed Miller, a Bradenton resident who worked with water pollution abatement programs in Pennsylvania before his retirement, said it will likely take years for Brazil to clean up its waterways.
"It is not going to be possible to cleanup the polluted waters in a year or two," Miller said, suggesting that consideration be given to moving the water sports to other locations.
"Good grief, this is obscene. How could Brazil have ever been considered in the first place?" Miller said.
Nathan Benderson Park is scheduled to host the World Rowing Championships in 2017 and the NCAA rowing national championships in 2018.
Last week ground was broken for a five-story, 24,000-square-foot, finish tower and media center costing $5 million at Benderson Park.
It will be the first structure to go vertical at the 600-acre park, and will be followed by a boat house, stands and other amenities. The finish tower is scheduled to be completed by summer of 2016.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.