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Olympic Lifeguards Don’t Exactly Have a Dream Job

Like the cop stuck on desk duty who yearns for undercover work, lifeguards in Rio wish for a little more action.

The New York Times published an article last week about lifeguards working at the Olympic swimming pool in Rio. Yes, lifeguards must patrol the pool even when the world’s best swimmers convene. It hardly seems necessary — does anyone really think Michael Phelps will need to be rescued? Will they blow their whistle to tell the competitors to slow down?

The article really caught fire this past weekend when the Times posted a photo of one lifeguard at the pool on its Instagram page.

You know who has the most useless job in Rio? A lifeguard. That’s right: At the #Olympic swimming pool, where the world’s best swimmers are never more than a few strokes from the pool wall and always within reach of a buoyant lane marker, lifeguards are watching. They have what is probably the best view in the house, as they’re among the few people permitted on the pool deck. 75 lifeguards are hired to work at the Olympic sites and training centers. In some cases, the reasons are obvious. Water polo can get ruggedly physical. Synchronized swimming is a surprisingly frequent source of sports concussions. Divers risk smacking the water. But do events like the 50-meter sprint and the breaststroke need a lifeguard or 2? The answer is yes. (Just in case someone like @m_phelps00, who has 18 gold medals, needs rescuing.) On Monday, @nytmills captured this #lifeguard watching Olympians practice. Visit the link in our profile to read the full story, by @johnbranchnyt. #ReportingFromRio

A photo posted by The New York Times (@nytimes) on

Yeah, he looks about as thrilled as a teenager working the register at McDonald’s on prom night.

As for the chance someone rescues Phelps, one lifeguard has his own Olympic goals: “I’m dreaming of that possibility.”

There are about 75 lifeguards working at the various swimming centers in Rio and they earn $340 for nearly three weeks of work, which makes it easy to figure out if they’re sinking or swimming when it comes getting by.

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