Events keep cropping up that make Rio seem woefully under-prepared for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games – Brazil reportedly pumps sewage into the ocean, Human body parts are washing up on beaches, and researchers have found a super bacteria resistant to drugs. With the games scheduled to go on, athletes are donning specialized anti-microbial unisuits designed by one Philadelphia University textile engineer to provide an extra measure of safety.
Textile engineer Mark Sunderland created a unisuit for rowers that’s lightweight and seamless, so it doesn’t interfere with athletes’ performance. But the suits have an additional element critical for those competing in waters that will possibly be contaminated: an anti-microbial finish. Anti-microbial material is actually knitted into the suits, offering an “extra layer of protection.” Philadelphia-based Boathouse Sports, founded by former Olympic rower John Strotbeck, III, will provide the suits in time for the Olympics.
Rower Chierika Ukogo was born in Philadelphia and will compete as Nigeria’s first ever Olympic rower. She’ll be wearing one of the green suits, and she says it “fits so well, I can’t even feel it.” Other American athletes competing for the United States will wear suits that are blue and white. The suits are even eco-friendly; the process to make one suit results in not even one gram of waste.
Sunderland warns, however, that the suit won’t protect athletes completely from contamination in Brazil waters. He told Philly.com, “This suit is not a medical device.” Others pointed out that athletes’ hands and faces could still come into contact with polluted water. Sailing crews practicing in the bay this month said an oil slick turned boats brown; some sailors even compared the appearance of the boats to a toilet.
Images via Philadelphia University