The 2016 Rio Olympics have come to a close with Americans earning 121 medals -- 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze -- their biggest haul ever, not counting the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games or the 1904 St. Louis Games, when hardly anyone else showed up.

It's not easy being green: Rio officials to drain discolored pool water and start over

An American fan watches the United States play France in a preliminary round water polo game on Wednesday. (Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
An American fan watches the United States play France in a preliminary round water polo game on Wednesday. (Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

After five days of trying unsuccessfully to clean the green-tinged water at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center, Rio Olympics officials began Saturday to drain the larger of two pools and refill it with nearly 1 million gallons of clean water from a nearby practice pool.

The transfer, which was expected to take about 10 hours, was scheduled to be completed early Sunday morning, in time for the start of synchronized swimming. The pool had earlier been the site of the water polo competition, which is moving to the larger Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

“Some radical measures are taking place,” Rio Games spokesman Mario Andrada said. “And one of those radical measures is to replace a big part of the water."

The water in the diving well and the adjacent water polo pool turned olive green in the middle of last week. Gustavo Nascimento, the director of venue management for Rio 2016, blamed a contractor dumping large amounts of hydrogen peroxide into the pool, which caused the water to change color when mixed with chlorine.

The water in the larger pool had started to clear this weekend and was a cloudy turquoise for the final water polo games Saturday. But Nascimento said that wasn’t good enough for synchronized swimming, which “requires clear water for refereeing and clear water for the athletes to see each other.”

Both Andrada and Nascimento said the water has been tested and is safe, although some athletes have complained of itchy eyes. There are no plans to change the water in the diving pool, where competition continued Saturday night. The water remains green but Nascimento said because there have “not been huge complaints” from the divers, organizers will continue trying to clean that pool with a filtration system.

“Now it’s time to fix the problem,” Andrada said. “To understand what caused the problem and how the problem can be fixed in the shortest amount of time.”

The Rio Olympics have been plagued by concerns over water quality, although most of those have centered on the dangers of the pollution in Guanabarra Bay and the nearby Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, site of the sailing and rowing competitions. The green pool water only added to those headaches.

"Of course it is an embarrassment because we were hosting the Olympic Games. The world is here," Andrada said. "We didn’t want the water to be an issue. It should be light blue, transparent.

“We could have done better in fixing it quickly. We learned a painful lesson the hard way."

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