“There is so much garbage in the Bay that it is actually a mess to have the competition there. Outside the Bay (in open seas) there is also a lot of garbage, however, less. It is a very negative factor and an even worse business card for someone who will organize the 2016 Olympics”
Monday, 11 January 2010 | Printed Version
Torben and Scheidt protest against pollution in Guanabara Bay, stage of the competition that starts tomorrow
INDIGNATION - For Torben Grael (with hat), it will be necessary to improve the conditions in the waters of the Bay in order to realize the sailing competition at the 2016 Olympic Games: “The way it is now…”
From far away, there is no doubt: the view is pretty. Seen from up close, you can be sure that the appearance has fooled you. Guanabara Bay is in agony, victim of pollution from domestic and industrial wastewaters, besides oil spills and other disposals. And it is exactly here where, starting tomorrow, at least one of the six regattas of the Class Star World Championship will be realized, a competition which includes 81 boats from 20 countries.
A situation which upsets sailor Torben Grael, the Brazilian with most Olympic medals (five in total). “There is so much garbage in the Bay that it is actually a mess to have the competition there. Outside the Bay (in open seas) there is also a lot of garbage, however, less. It is a very negative factor and an even worse business card for someone who will organize the 2016 Olympics”, criticizes the athlete, one of the biggest attractions of the World Championship. “If they want to realize the sailing competition in Rio (during the 2016 Olympics), they will have to improve significantly. The way it is now…”
Robert Scheidt, another Brazilian top sailor at the World Championship, did not shun discussions and said that the alert needs to be switched on now for 2016. “If sailors from different countries see all the garbage here, they do not like it. It’s a sign that Guanabara Bay needs to improve its conditions in order to host the Olympic Games.”
Scheidt underlines that the World Championship is the first big sailing event in Rio after the city has been granted the right to host the Olympics, and he says which measures need to be taken. “It’s a great alert. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do now. There are only a few days until the first regatta will start”, he says. “A plastic bag can make the speed of a boat slow down. It’s frustrating. It’s as if you were pulling the handbrake of a car”, he explains, convinced that this will be the sailors’ biggest concern.
In an interview with newspaper “Estado de São Paulo” in 2008, sailor Ricardo Winick, called “Bimba”, said that he had already found “cadavers, dead animals, refrigerator doors, a couch and even a television set” in Guanabara Bay.
Ricardo Ermel, the director of the Yacht Club of Rio, in the district of Urca, is one of the organizers of the World Championship and he admitted that the pollution in the Bay could disturb the competition. “Technically speaking, it would be much better to run in Búzios, Angra dos Reis or Ilhabela, but the clubs in these regions cannot host a competition of this size. Here we have the structure for this.”
And the dirt in Guanabara Bay? “In my point of view, it has already been worse. But there is indeed a lot of floating garbage. Besides, he learned that water quality has improved. Is there as risk of getting mycosis? There is. The water is dirty”, he admitted.
Meanwhile, Ermel argued that the problem is not just the one of Rio. “In Miami, algae stick on the boats. And in China the sea is also dirty. It does not help to just put the blame on the government. It’s also people’s fault. They litter sidewalks, sands on beaches and everything is washed into the sea.”
Through its assistant, the Organizing Committee of the 2016 Olympic Games communicated that the project for the sailing competitions at the Rio Olympics was approved by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The committee added to have “full confidence” in the quality of the project of de-polluting Guanabara Bay, which has been developed by the state government in partnership with a private initiative and will include investments until 2016. And it was underlined that, during the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio, sailing competitions were realized in Guanabara Bay “without any problems”.
Text published in Portuguese in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil)
Translation: Global Garbage