Tuesday
September 23, 2014

Olympics — Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sailors to navigate dirty water

Austria''s 49er class Nikolaus Resch (r) and Nico Delle Karth, train on the waters of Guanabaray bay between Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Sailors, coaches and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro acknowledge the problem: Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing at the 2016 Olympics, is badly polluted. Some liken it to a sewer.

The water is filthy after years of untreated waste being poured into the enclosed bay, a mess officials say will take at least a decade to fix.

From a distance, the venue is picturesque, framed between Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue. This is the image Rio organizers want the world to see.

Yes, the venue will make good television. The conditions for the athletes? That’s another story.

“A few days ago, one of the sailors had to jump in the water and the first thing he did after coming up was take a bottle of water and wash his mouth and face,” said Ivan Bulaja, a former Olympian who coaches the Austrian team. “When you feel this water on your face you feel uncomfortable. You have no idea what’s in it. I think no sailor is comfortable sailing here. I guess you can get seriously ill.”

But sail they will, starting on Sunday with the first test event of the Rio Games.

Rio dumps almost 70 percent of its untreated sewage into the surrounding waters.

Herald staff with AP

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