Four hot issues ahead of Paris Olympics

    The Summer Olympics in Paris will open July 26, but organizers and athletes are already facing potentially tough hurdles and conditions ahead of the opening ceremonies. 

    Here are four issues to keep an eye on:

    Green Games vs. record heat

    The Paris Games aim to be the most environmentally friendly in history. Organizers announced earlier this year there would be no energy-sucking air conditioning in the Olympic Village, instead opting for geothermal cooling methods.

    However, some nations think the low-carbon emissions housing won’t offer ideal conditions for their athletes to perform at peak level, especially with Europe bracing for possibly its hottest summer on record.

    According to the Washington Post, nine delegations — including the U.S. — will bring portable air-conditioning units for some or all of their athletes. But countries such as Uganda, with considerably smaller budgets, lament they cannot afford them.

    Contaminated Seine water

    Paris organizers undertook the herculean effort to decontaminate the River Seine to make it safe enough to hold the triathlon and open-water swimming events. But archaic sewage systems and boat waste have proved to be tougher obstacles than previously thought.

    Water sample testing revealed high levels of E. coli and fecal matter — both can cause serious health problems when ingested — still in the river.

    It has been illegal to swim in the River Seine since 1923, but the city hopes to open it to public swimmers in 2025 if made sterile enough for the Olympics.

    Cheating allegations

    Before any medals have even been awarded, controversies are already marring the competition. 

    The New York Times reported in April that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned substance prior to the 2020 Tokyo Games but were allowed to participate anyway. Several of them plan to compete in Paris.

    Chinese Olympic officials allegedly cleared their athletes of wrongdoing, claiming they inadvertently ate contaminated food. The World Anti-Doping Agency refused to take any further action.

    U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky, who lost to the Chinese swimmers in a relay in Tokyo, said in May her faith in the anti-doping system is “at an all-time low.”

    Separately, Kenyan long-distance runner Rhonex Kipruto was banned six years from competition and had his 10-kilometer world record stripped after being found guilty of “a deliberate and sophisticated doping system.”

    But on a positive note, American hurdler Lashinda Demus will receive her gold medal at a ceremony in Paris 12 years after she lost at the London Games to a Russian athlete later found to have been doping.

    Missing stars

    The Olympics typically produce unlikely heroes and crown legends, but this edition will miss out on some of the world’s best talents.

    WNBA sensation Caitlin Clark was reportedly left off the Team USA women’s basketball roster to the ire of fans nationwide. And French soccer phenom Kylian Mbappe is not expected to participate for host France due to contractual restrictions from his new club, Real Madrid.

    Also missing will be two-time defending Olympic soccer champion Brazil. The men’s team failed to qualify after losing to rival Argentina in the final stage of the pre-Olympic tournament.

    Despite those absences, the eyes of the world will still be on “The City of Light” for 16 days as nations come together in the name of competition.

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