Olympic sailing should stay in Rio

Published on May 14th, 2015

by Ricardo Lobato
I have been following all the attacks made against the Guanabara Bay, which is the venue for the 2016 Olympic Games. As this is my sailing region, I internally had hopted that this could be adding some pressure to the authorities and their cleaning program. But I have also tired of the ignorance about the current situation, and all the misinformation floating on cyber sea.

In 2016, the Olympic Regatta will be sailed in the best frame of the world. This place is Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, where I have been sailing since I was 7 years old in mostly Optimist, Snipe, Laser, and Star – these are the popular classes here. My Yacht Club, Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, runs more than one hundred races every year without any issue. It is rare to have a day with no wind or any kind of problems. Events like Snipe Worlds 2013, Military Games 2011, Star Worlds 2010, Pan Am Games 2007, and Finn Gold Cup 2004 were all successfully held here.

The 2016 Olympics is a unique opportunity to showcase our sport and lifestyle to the world. In past Olympics, it is not common for sailing to be part of the venue, which has limited public and media interest in the sailing competition. The initial plan in Rio was to build a huge stadium for sailing, but the decision to remove the Star class removed much of the interest, but not the desire for sailing to be in Rio.

The Guanabara issue involves a lot of interests. International contractors are interested in creating work, political groups are eager to prove that this or that politician is not competent, and there are also political groups who want to increase their influence at ISAF. In the middle of all this are the sailors who have their own preferences. Light wind experts seek races in front of Copacabana Beach while heavy wind experts dream of Búzios.

Yes, there are problems with the bay but the recent international pressure to remove the sailing event from our bay is quite ridiculous. The press gave a lot of attention for the 49er hitting a plastic fishing box…. it was featured on the most seen Sunday night TV program! They seek out video and pictures from the end of the bay and some the most polluted rivers. They even created a factoid about a “super bacteria”. Sometimes they find dead fish too.

The floating garbage is a problem, but this has been considerably reduced after the closure of Gramacho´s Landfill. For the Olympic Regatta there is a contingency plan for using nets in the polluted rivers and using some boats to make sure there is no garbage on the race course. This plan is quite similar to what was done in Qingdao.

The sewage is also unfortunate, as the population around the north end of the bay has increased much faster than the investments in sanitary treatment. It would be great to have this entire problem solved as promised, but saying that it is dangerous to sail on the proposed Olympic course is a complete joke. Nobody gets sick sailing or swimming here. This is my home, and I have never heard of any sailors getting sick.

Everybody knows there are some pluvial galleries that bring some swage illegally discharged by nearby building exiting around the south part of the bay. They are found mainly close to the Marina da Gloria. Sometimes this smells bad and it is not acceptable. However, every day I get stuck in the traffic due to the work that the sanitary company is doing around the Marina and other parts of the South part of the bay. We already observe the improved water clarity due to this work. It is no secret that the water quality numbers are well inside the accepted limits and getting better.

It has been suggested to move the sailing to Búzios, which offers outstanding conditions and is my favorite venue. However, the probability of someone getting diarrhea is much higher in Búzios as their tap water is not very good. It is quite common for someone living in a high standard sanitary condition country (i.e., north Europe) having a little diarrhea in the first days in Búzios unless they are brushing their teeth with mineral water.

But the most important thing is Buzios was not the chosen City for 2016 Games. Neither was Chicago. The Olympics will be in Rio the Janeiro.

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