Rio de Janeiro water pollution a safety issue for 2016 Olympics

World Today

Concerns Rio de Janeiro won’t be ready in time for the 2016 Olympics turn to a particular focus on the city’s water pollution.

CCTV America’s Lucrecia Franco filed this report from Rio de Janeiro.

Floating debris forms a peninsula in one of the water ways that lead to the Guanabara Bay, some 10 kilometers (about six miles) from the starting point for the 2016 Olympic sailing events.

On a three-day visit, inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) encountered heavy pollution in the city’s bay, which is the venue for the sailing events.
Mario Moscatelli, an independent biologist who has been monitoring pollution in Rio’s bay for more than 18 years, said the city’s waters are not suitable for the games.

“We have now practically all the rivers that flow in the Guanabara bay transformed in ditches of garbage and sewage,” Moscatelli  said. “All the water inside the bay has huge volumes of debris.”

The Guanabara Bay is one of Rio’s most famous post card views, but is heavily polluted. Officials have vowed to treat 80 percent of the sewage by the time of the games that will take place in just 18 months.

Water pollution has become a major hazard for Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Olympic Games, but a team of international Olympic inspectors visiting venues believes the city will meets its promises.

“We want every single venue to be ready for the athletes to compete in a secure and safe manner,” Nawal El Moutawakel, Head of the IOC inspection team said. “We still confirm because we have been given the reassurance that all the venues will meet the level of sustainability and environmentally respected the aspects so that athletes can compete, again, in a safe and secure manner.”

Local officials said 50 percent of the sewage in Rio is now being treated. Meanwhile, the bay that is to be used for sailing events, as well as the lagoon for the canoeing and rowing events are visibly polluted. The IOC inspectors said it is too soon to judge.

“We are like athletes in this. We are pushing towards the finish line and we should respect that every effort is being made at that point in time and 80 percent remains the commitment,” Christophe Dubi, Director of the Olympic Games said.

It better be true, biologists warn, for the sake of the health of sailing teams and other water sports athletes that are already testing venues.