Harken Derm

Sailing is first test event for 2016 Olympic Games

Published on August 3rd, 2014

One of the stipulations for hosting a Summer Olympics is that you must hold a test event in each competition venue a year or two out, and to host a test event you actually have to build a venue. And when nothing is actually built – as is the case in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – your first test event becomes sailing.

So it is the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta this week on Guanabara Bay, just east of downtown, with more than 300 sailors from 34 nations in 10 events. Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Games, the first in South America, are two years from Tuesday.

Good thing, too.

An Austrian boat had its center board damaged when it slammed into a UFO – unidentified floating object – in a practice session earlier this week. “Some strange plastic piece we hit,” Nico Delle Karth said. Others saw television sets, sofas, wooden chairs, ladders, shoes, whatever else you can imagine floating by. Two different crews spotted a dead dog. An AFP photographer snapped a shot of a dead cat.

“A huge toilet,” a Brazilian biologist calls it.

“If the Olympics were tomorrow,” Australia’s Mathew Belcher, a 2012 gold medalist in the 470 class, told Brazilian media, “we would really have a problem.”

But they’re not tomorrow, and this is Brazil, which, as we’ve learned, could mean anything. It doesn’t mean Guanabara Bay will be clean by 2016, with sparkling blue water and egrets gliding over mangrove forests. But it might mean no one will hit a sofa on the final leg of the laser competition two Augusts from now.

It might mean Brazil will kind of, sort of, maybe, pull this off.

It happened last month with soccer’s World Cup, which was plagued by construction delays and cost overruns and organizational glitches and fears of collapsing temporary staircases. And which survived, somehow, without major incident.

“We’re not maybe, probably as precise as London (in 2012),” said Ricardo Prado, who heads the Sport Advisory Committee for Rio 2016 and won a silver medal in swimming for Brazil in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. “I guess when we say yes, we don’t always really mean yes, which is a scary thing to say here … We went to London with a year and a half to go, and everything was up. That’s how it should be. We’re trying to bury a bunch of stigmas in organizing these Games. This is something that we would have liked to bury, too, but we couldn’t do it.

“But I’m very confident we’re going to excel. We’re going to do it the Brazilian way, which hopefully will be a little more fun.”

He was speaking July 3, which was the day the nine-venue Deodoro complex, the second largest of Rio’s four Olympic parks, broke ground – more than two years behind schedule, barely two years before Opening Ceremonies.

“It seems late, yes,” Prado said, “but I think two years is a long time, too.”

And there it is, the difference in perspective, the bathtub vortex draining in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere, the instance on embracing life as an endless adventure, the wild taxi ride weaving through Rio traffic, the samba instead of a fox trot. The Brazilian way. – Union-Tribune, read on

More: Before the start of the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, a group of specialists explained the measures being undertaken to ensure that water quality in Guanabara Bay is suitable for top-level competition, as well as outlining the longer-term initiatives that will improve the bay for the city’s residents. Details.

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