Trash at Olympic venue remains dangerous

Published on April 15th, 2015

Newly released footage of a sailor crashing into rubbish floating in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay has raised further concerns about the suitability of the venue for the sailing events at the 2016 Olympic Games.

International Business Times reports that the incident, which took place on February 14, involved Brazilian 49er sailors Breno Osthoff, 20, and Rafael de Almeida Sampaio, 35, during a training session.

The video registers the moment when the boat, travelling at ten knots, crashed into a plastic box used to transport fish which was discarded in the bay. According to the Osthoff, the impact was so great that the box broke in half and the boat capsized

“The impact broke the daggerboard, damaged the hull, and as we turned we fell on top of the sails and scraped the two sails. The damage was very significant and it is just unacceptable,” Osthoff said.

There was costly damage to the boat, but Osthoff says that the potential damage to an athlete’s sporting campaign could be much worse. He said that a collision of such kind, were it to take place during a competition, would be almost impossible to recover from. At Olympic level, he said, such a possibility cannot be permitted.

“Sailing in the rubbish is an atypical way to sail, since there are many conditions which we do not control but which we work with, such as wind conditions, temperature, direction and strength. We see a lot of rubbish but it is something we do not control. We often have to change our tactics due to unconventional factors,” Osthoff explained.

Rio de Janeiro pledged to reduce pollution in the notoriously fetid Guanabara Bay by 80% but officials confirmed last month that the target will not be reached.

Brazilian Olympic officials said on March 24 that they would only clean up lanes for sailors in 2016 and not the whole body of water for the sailing competition as originally promised.

Rio Mayor, Eduardo Paes, said that the sailing events will take place in a relatively clean part of the bay and as it is the dry season, there will be less water flowing into the bay from the five rivers that surround it.

Biologists last year said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria that is resistant to antibiotics and can cause urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.

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