The swimmers competing in the Olympics are anything but amateurs. Even first timer; 18-year-old Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini prior to coming for the Games along with 3 other friends famoulsly swam and pushed a boat full of co-refugees for 3 whole hours until they got to safety.
Despite the competence of these swimmers, any attentive viewer is still sure to spot Olympic lifeguards hanging around the fringes of the pool, watching and waiting until they could possibly be needed, but these are not the type of swimmers one would necessarily assume that require lifeguards.
It is not a result of any terrible tragedy in the history of the Olympic games; previous games from 2010 have seen only a handful of competitors expiring or needing assistance during or immediately after the Games. The few that have had mishaps were usually as a result of collisions, heart trouble, or sunstroke.
So why has Rio insisted on stationing Olympic lifeguards to watch over some of the most capable swimmers in the world? The Olympic sports manager for aquatics, Ricardo Prado, gives a rather simple reason; the Games are simply following the laws set by their host country.
He told Reuters;
“It is a Brazilian law that any public pool over a certain size has to have lifeguards …We have to have them.”
Apparently, Rio mandates that any pool measuring more than six by six meters (about 20 by 20 feet) be monitored by a rescue professional. For this reason, the city has assigned a total of 75 lifeguards across the events, including swimming, water polo, and diving.
For the 20 days that they will be engaged in this so-far-uneventful task, the guards will be paid approximately $340. So although it is highly unlikely that most decorated Olympian and Olympic record breaker Michael Phelps is going to suddenly forget how to swim, lifeguards will be there watching over him and other aquatic athletes anyway.