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The Rio Bay Has to be Cleaned, or Else…
The 2016 Olympic sailing events are under threat if the Brazilian government does not take fast action. Alistair Fox, an official from the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) told The Associated Press that the events may be moved from Guanabara Bay if it is not cleaned up quickly. Fox expressed frustration at the lack of cooperation from Brazilian officials and said that ISAF would make sure things are done.
Raw sewage, super bacteria, dead fish and rubbish
According to ISAF the health risk from untreated sewage spilling into the bay is not only unacceptable to athletes but also only part of the problem. Scientists reported a drug-resistant ‘super bacteria’ found in the water of a river feeding the bay in December 2014. There was more than 30 tons of dead fish in Rodrigo de Freitas Lake where the Olympic rowing and canoeing is meant to take place. Besides potentially harmful water conditions, rubbish from the city’s slums wash down into the bay that can cause all sorts of obstacles to having a fair race.
What the Brazilians say
Environmental officials from Rio claimed that the large mass of dying fish was likely caused by sudden changes in water temperature. The Associated Press asked the opinion of several independent scientists and the consensus was it is more likely that pollution was the cause. The government of Rio did not dispute that there is a problem with the bay in regards to raw sewage and committed to reducing the problem by 80%. Unfortunately officials have since admitted that the goal was not likely to be met. Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio called the cleanup a ‘lost opportunity’ on local television shortly after ISAF officials left.
A test event in August is said to be the next step in determining whether the bay is good enough for this world-class event. Should the bay not be up to standard, there are two sailing courses located in the open Atlantic, just outside Guanabara Bay instead of the three courses that were planned in the bay. ISAF’s Fox said, “The bottom line is we’ve got to have a fair Olympics, and make sure that our sailors are not at risk from health problems.”