Sailors and windsurfers training for the 2016 Summer Olympics set for Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay will be subjected to raw sewage and pollutants if they are looking to train in the Olympic waters.
Not only that, but Olympic contenders worry that debris, from couches to corpses, prevalent in the polluted waters will cause them to capsize during one of the world’s highest-stakes competitions.
Nico Delle Karth, an Austrian sailor preparing for the 2016 Olympics, said it was the foulest place he had ever trained. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Delle Karth told The New York Times.
Garbage bobbed on the surface, everything from car tires to floating mattresses. The water reeked so badly of sewage that he was afraid to launch his boat from shore.
John D. Coates, an International Olympic Committee vice president, said last month that Rio’s preparations were “the worst I have experienced.”
Guanabara Bay, nestled between Sugarloaf Mountain and other granite peaks, has become a focal point of complaints, turning Rio’s polluted waters into a symbol of frustration with the troubled preparations for the Olympics. One commentator called it “a trash can and a latrine.”
“It can get really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water turning brown from sewage contamination,” Brazilian Olympic hopeful Thomas Low-Beer told the paper. Low-Beer shuddered when recalling how his dinghy crashed into what he believed was a partly submerged sofa, capsizing him into the murky Guanabara.
Although international officials complain that Brazil has had almost five years since winning its Olympic bid to make headway, some of the delays stem from chronic problems the nation has long fought.
Well-financed efforts to clean up the bay have proved disappointing for decades, undercut by mismanagement and allegations of corruption.
Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the influential association representing various Summer Olympic sports, said the Rio Games were in “the most risky position” of any Olympics he can remember.
Calling the bay “dark, brown and stinking,” Lars Grael, 50, a Brazilian sailing legend who has won two Olympic medals, said he had encountered human corpses on four occasions while sailing in the bay. He told reporters that officials should move the sailing events to a resort area hours away by car.
However, authorities in Rio insist nothing of the sort will happen.