London – The Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) has expressed ‘extreme concern’ over the site chosen for the sailing events of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.
Guanabara Bay may look picture perfect but the organisation says yachties will risk running into the bodies of people and animals in their boats and sailing in a sea of unprocessed sewerage if the site for the event is not changed.
YJA Chairman Paul Gelder said:, ‘It’s astonishing that those in a position to solve the Rio Olympics pollution scandal seem to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to multiple protests, as well as irrefutable scientific evidence of toxic dangers. This fiasco has been going on for months and our sailors face an unacceptable risk.’
‘The Yachting Journalists’ Association strongly believes that it needs, simply, action – now. It is time to abandon Guanabara Bay as the venue and move it to a safe and clean water venue – immediately.’
Despite continued protests over the state of the pollution of the water since the site was first approved in 2009, the group says 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.
‘Only a third of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage is treated, and competitors in sailing events will need a series of innoculations,’ YJA said in a statement.
‘In addition to the untreated faeces and urine from the surrounding area, which is dumped into Guanabara Bay, Rio’s sewers deliver many other foreign objects into the bay – bodies of dead humans and animals plus large items of rubbish, which are a hazard to the progress of small sailing craft,’ the statement continued.
‘The Brazilian authorities promised the bay would be cleared for the sailing events as far back as 2009, but no effective work has been carried out and the state of the bay is now worse than it was.
‘There would appear to be a concerted recalcitrance by the Rio authorities, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to tackle this problem, and with the sailing events of the 2016 Olympic Games now only a year away, it would appear that nothing will be done to improve the state of pollution in the waters where the racing will take place. There are, after all, some 150 murders a day in the Rio area – a figure that is not falling and shows no signs of so doing.
‘The high level of pollution is dangerous to the health of all athletes racing on the bay, and to the race officials and support teams. In test events, competitors have hit semi-floating objects, which have caught around centerboards and rudders, thereby making the racecourse unfair,’ the statement said.
The group recommends moving the site of the Olympic Regatta to Búzios – around 120km from Rio de Janeiro – where the waters are clear and unpolluted.
By comparison, Weymouth, where the sailing events of the last Olympic Games were held in 2012, is 218km from London. In addition, the group says there is a suitable marina at Buzios, which in six months could be altered for the major event.