Rio 2016 Pollution Update

Published on November 4th, 2015

When selecting championship sailing venues, intent consideration is given to insure a fair competition can be held with consistent winds. But when it comes to selecting sailing venues for major international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, consideration is more about what is available and close, and less about quality sailing.

It is not often the sailing competition is held close to the Olympic host city, but in 2016 the venue – Guanabara Bay – will be at its doorstep. It is a noted sailing site, having hosted the Pan Am Games, Snipe and Star World Championships. The only problem is that the sailing venue is also the toilet bowl for Rio de Janeiro.

Water quality is an old problem for the City, and not one that gets much attention from the politicians. But a local campaign has leveraged the Olympics to attract international awareness for this environmental atrocity.

While everyone is enchanted by the venue, with its picturesque landscapes and unmatched proximity, the pollution issue is getting a lot of attention. Caught in the crosshairs is the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), which trusted that IOC and the Brazilian authorities to follow through on safety assurances. But with puttering progress amid a ticking clock, the issue has not become a conundrum.

Sailing is an important sport in Rio, providing immense pride for them to showcase it in Guanabara Bay. International sailing teams have dedicated years of time and budget to train at the venue; too much has been invested now to change the location.

But any incident during the Games that can be even remotely connected to the water pollution issue will become an international news story, which will prove embarrassing to the sport and all stakeholders. It is an immense burden, arguably unfair, as previous Games have also had health incidents, but without the media scrutiny.

A report by the ISAF Events Committee titled Rio 2016 Pollution Update (November 3, 2015) provides a history of how this situation evolved, provides an assessment of the current condition, and details the work being done, plus additional ideas, to improve the venue in time for the 2016 Games.

There is optimism in the report, and offers an interesting read: click here


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