Brazil’s latest Olympic problem: The water is filthy

(Associated Press)

A couple of weeks ago, IOC Vice President said Brazil’s preparations for the 2016 Olympics were “the worst I have experienced,” and that was before the New York Times wrote Sunday about all the carcasses (both canine and human) in the waters of the bay where the sailing and windsurfing events will take place.

But alas, here we are.

Guanabara Bay, nestled between Sugarloaf Mountain and other granite peaks, offers the kind of a postcard image Rio’s authorities want to celebrate as hosts of the 2016 Summer Olympics. But it has become a focal point of complaints, turning Rio’s polluted waters into a symbol of frustrations with the troubled preparations for the Olympics. …

“Welcome to the dump that is Rio,” Germany’s sailing team said in one typically blunt assessment of the site for the Olympic regatta.

Brazilians training here agree.

“It can get really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water turning brown from sewage contamination,” said Thomas Low-Beer, 24, a Brazilian Olympic hopeful who sails in the bay. He shuddered when recalling how his dinghy crashed into what he believed was a partly submerged sofa, capsizing him into the murky Guanabara.

Efforts to clean up the bay have been stymied by the usual Brazilian maladies of “mismanagement and allegations of corruption,” the Times reports. The Rio state government has taken out $1 billion in loans from the government of Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank, but the carcasses, sofas and sewage still remain.

Calling the bay “dark, brown and stinking,” Lars Grael, 50, a Brazilian sailing legend who won two Olympic medals, said he had encountered human corpses on four occasions while sailing in the bay. He told reporters that officials should move the sailing events to a resort area hours away by car.

To fight an algal bloom in 2008, the Chinese government deployed about 1,000 boats in advance of the Beijing Games, the Times reports, and it worked. Brazilian officials said they hope to have 20 or 30 boats ready to help clean up Guanabara Bay.

After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Next Story
Cindy Boren · May 19, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.