TWENTY-THREE Olympic medallists start trials on Saturday for the 2016 Rio Games in a bay littered with dead animals, television sets, sofas, shoes and not much clean water.
More than 320 competitors from 34 countries will take part in nine days of racing in a Guanabara Bay which has become “a huge toilet,” according to Mario Moscatelli, a biologist who has been fighting for a clean-up since 1997.
The Australian team complained to the Olympic organising committee before the opening trials this week. Germany’s sailing team proclaimed “welcome to the dump that is Rio” in an editorial on its website in March.
The trials involve men and women in 10 Olympic classes including 49er, Laser, 470, Fin, and windsurfing.
All are wary of falling into the water. And new warnings about the dangers started as soon as training started on Monday.
Mathew Belcher, Australia’s London Olympic champion in the 470 class, had to tear plastic bags off his craft after his training on Tuesday.
“We found a lot of plastic bottles and bags. Yesterday we saw a dead dog in the water,” Belcher told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.
“If the Olympics were tomorrow, we would really have a problem,” he added. An AFP photographer found a dead cat in the water during a tour of the bay on Thursday.
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