Fourth-Place Medal

Garbage mars future waters of Rio 2016 sailing, windsurfing events

Sailing official wants Rio water pollution tests

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In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash floats on a polluted water channel that flows into the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In its 2009 Olympic bid, officials promised that the city's waterways would be cleaned up but Brazil will not make good on its commitment to clean up Rio de Janeiro's sewage-filled Guanabara Bay by the 2016 Olympic Games. Little progress has been made on the clean up, and with just over two years to go until the Olympics, nearly 70 percent of the sewage in the metropolitan area of 12 million inhabitants continues to flow untreated, along with thousands of tons of garbage daily, into area rivers, the bay and even Rio's famed beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

We're still more than two years out from the Olympics, but the Rio-isn't-ready stories are flying faster Usain Bolt on a Red Bull latte. No, London won't be getting the Games back, but short of that, everything else is apparently on the table to get these Olympics off the ground.

Now comes word that Guanabera Bay, future site of sailing and windsurfing events, is a trash-strewn nightmare, a dumpsite for 80 to 100 tons of Rio de Janeiro's trash each day. Add to that the fact that only about 40 percent of sewage is treated, with the remainder going straight into the water system, and you've got the foundation for an epic public health/public relations/public image nightmare.

The local government has said it will clean up the bay, but to local residents, this is more of the same news. Brazil has spent more than a billion dollars in the past two decades trying to clean up the bay, with little if any progress to show for it. There are plenty of photos of the environmental devastation here, though fair warning: some include aerial shots of gag-inducing amounts of sewage floating in waterways.

The problem with sewage in the waterways is that it disproportionately affects those least able to fight it: the poor and impoverished. The Global Post notes that state authorities in April cut the water cleanup budget by 95 percent, from more than $1 billion to $51 million. Gone are sewage treatment centers, left are boats and fences to contain debris.

Plus, there are the corpses. Lars Grael, who won two sailing medals for Brazil, has observed at least four human bodies floating in the sewage-infested waters during his training. He termed the bay “dark, brown and stinking,” and indicated that Olympic organizers should move the water events to a resort hours away.

Rio officials have disregarded such ideas. They said the bay will be cleaned by the Games, a claim that leaves local environmental experts scoffing.

“The government could deploy aircraft carriers to collect the bay’s garbage and the problem would not be solved,” Mario Moscatelli, a Brazilian biologist, told the New York Times. “The bay is still a latrine. It’s an insult to Rio’s people to say it will be clean for the Olympics.”


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

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