Journalist association now calling for action over 2016 Olympic sailing

The Yachting Journalists’ Association (YJA) has expressed concern over the use of Guanabara Bay for the sailing events of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Despite continued protests over the state of the pollution of the water since the site was first approved in 2009, nothing has been achieved to limit or reduce the pollution in the bay and this has now reached a significantly dangerous level as well as failing to provide a level racetrack for the competitors.

Only a third of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage is treated, resulting in competitors in sailing events requiring a series of innoculations. In addition to the untreated faeces and urine from the surrounding area, which is dumped into Guanabara Bay, Rio’s sewers deliver many other foreign objects into the Bay: bodies of dead humans and animals plus large items of rubbish, which are a hazard to the progress of small sailing craft.

The Brazilian authorities promised the Bay would be cleared for the sailing events as far back as 2009, but no effective work has been carried out and the state of the Bay is now worse than it was.

There would appear to be a concerted recalcitrance by the Rio authorities, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to tackle this problem and with the Sailing Events of the 2016 Olympic Games now only a year away, it would appear that nothing will be done to improve the state of pollution in the waters where the racing will take place.

The high level of pollution is dangerous to the health of all athletes racing on the Bay and to the race officials and support teams.  In test events, competitors have hit semi-floating objects, which have caught around centerboards and rudders, thereby making the racecourse unfair.

Perhaps the only option would be to move the site of the Olympic Regatta to Búzios – just 75 miles from Rio de Janeiro – where the waters are clear and unpolluted.  (Note: Weymouth, where the sailing events of the last Olympic Games were held in 2012, is 136 miles from London.  In addition, there is a suitable marina at Buzios, which in six months could be altered for the major event).

The Yachting Journalists’ Association strongly believes that it needs action now. Believing it is time to abandon Guanabara Bay as the venue and move it to a safe and clean water venue.

YJA Chairman Paul Gelder said: “it's astonishing that those in a position to solve the Rio Olympics pollution scandal seem to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to multiple protests, as well as irrefutable scientific evidence of toxic dangers. This fiasco has been going on for months and our sailors face an unacceptable risk.”
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