Sailing Industry Wants Brazil to Clean Up Polluted Waters Before 2016 Olympics

Two groups with an interest in sailing are speaking out about heavy pollution in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, the chosen site of sailing events during the 2016 Olympics.

The Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) is not having it with the chosen location for sailing events during the Olympic Games in Brazil next summer.

The U.K.-based association expressed “extreme concern” last week over the use of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Guanabara Bay as a sailing site due to high levels of pollution and the subsequent health risks to competitors.

“Despite continued protests over the state of the pollution of the water since the site was first approved in 2009, nothing has been achieved to limit or reduce the pollution in the bay and this has now reached a significantly dangerous level as well as failing to provide a level racetrack for the competitors,” the association noted in a statement on its website.

Cleaning up Guanabara Bay was part of Rio de Janeiro’s bid for the 2016 Olympics, according to the International Business Times. Organizers reportedly aimed to cut the amount of sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent, but as of earlier this year there are still sofas, plastic bags, thousands of dead fish, and other detritus floating in its waters.

Only a third of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage is treated, YJA said in its statement, which also proposed moving the sailing site about 100 miles east of Guanabara Bay to the town of Búzios.

YJA is not the only group to speak out about the pollution. Earlier this year, the world’s governing body on sailing said it would move all Olympic sailing events out of Guanabara Bay if the waters were not cleaned.

“If we have to race all the races outside the bay, if that’s what it comes to, to ensure a fair regatta, then that’s something we’re going to explore and could do,” Alastair Fox, head of competitions at the International Sailing Federation, told the Associated Press. ISAF also asked the International Olympic Committee to encourage Brazilian politicians to do more to clean up the waters.

Not only does the pollution pose health risks, but floating sewage could hinder races.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to have a fair Olympics,” Fox said, “and make sure that our sailors are not at risk from health problems and there is fair racing.”

Brazil's Guanabara Bay. (eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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