Rio Pollution Latest Problem in Olympic-Bound City


In the wake of the International Olympic Committee announcing that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil would host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, many were skeptical. The main reason Rio was deemed as a controversial location is due to the massive crime that takes place in the region. Additionally, there were many questioning if the city could get everything under control before the Games. Now, the latest problem coming out of Rio is that there is a pollution problem in the waters of the Olympic-bound city that has many worried.

Over the last week a document was obtained, courtesy of the Associated Press that confirmed a highly polluted area in Guanabara Bay, the location where the 2016 sailing events will take place. In the document addressed to Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, environment secretary Carlos Francisco Portinho stated that by the time of the Olympics, the bay might be able to cut pollution just over 50 percent. This is problematic as there was a promise of 80 percent by the time of the Olympic Games.

The contaminates found in the waters of Guanabara Bay includes various sewage, which has been found to be a cause of diseases such as dysentery, cholera and hepatitis A, among many others. For this reason alone, it is not surprising that the sailing’s governing body does not want to risk athletes’ lives by competing in the bay. As a matter of fact Allan Norregaard, a Danish bronze medal winner, has said the body of water was the most polluted place he had ever been.

Why is this? Simply put, almost 70 percent of sewage in the city, not only enters the waters but is untreated. Part of the problem is that Brazil laws for pollution is more lax than in other areas of the world. Having said that, the levels analyzed last year were above even those standards. Additionally, there are several signs around the area for people not to swim in the bay, which is a bad sign for an area that will hold an athletic event. Because of this danger, an independent water-quality test may be conducted by sailing’s governing body.

Contaminates in the water is not the only problem with the bay. There also has been found to be much debris in the waters such as tires, couches and even dead animals. However, in this scenario, officials are attempting to clean up the visible debris with garbage boats in the area.

This is a major problem for Rio De Janeiro. Debris in the waters is not a good thing. For the canoeing event, imagine if debris gets in the way of the competition. It is one thing when bad weather such as wind inhibits an athlete to get their best time. However, it is a whole other story if athletes have to maneuver around garbage in a body of water that should be environmentally safe.

The worst of Rio’s environmental problems is the fact that the contaminants found in the bay could cause recurring or fatal diseases to athletes. This would be a major liability for not only Rio officials, but for the Olympic Committee as well.

This news is the most recent to be added to a slew of troubles for Rio De Janeiro. Not only is the area not the safest place in the world in terms of crime, but the preparations for the Olympics are said to only be at 10 percent, despite the Olympics being only two years away. This latest pollution problem, on the other hand, could turn into a major disaster for the Olympic-bound city of Rio. Not only does it put the stress on the safety of athletes and spectators for the Games, but it could potentially result in a postponement or change of location for the 2016 Olympics — something the city does not want.

Commentary by Simon Mounsey


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