By Dom Phillips
15 May 2015
RIO DE JANEIRO (Washington Post) — The site chosen for the finals of next summer’s Olympic sailing races could not be more spectacular. Located at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, at the foot of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain, in full view of the crowds on Flamengo Beach, it is one of the most scenic places on the planet.
But there is one not-so-little problem.
“It is dirty,’’ said Brazilian Olympic windsurfer Ricardo Winicki. “It is one of the dirtiest places. And one of the most beautiful.’’
So notoriously grimy are the waters that Brazilian authorities are fighting to defend their selection of the site, which is polluted with raw sewage and garbage that floods into the 147-square-mile bay from open sewers and rain gullies — according to a 2014 report, 1.6 million homes in cities around the bay still lacked sewage collection.
When a top Brazilian government official recently staged a highly publicized swim to prove that the bay was safe, his televised stunt backfired — cameras on his boat captured scenes of floating garbage. An oceanographer explained that the official — Rio state environment secretary André Corrêa — had selected a point where the incoming tide offered the cleanest conditions in the bay. The pollution problems are just the latest facing Rio’s troubled Olympics. [more]