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World Sailing surprised by ex-CEO comments on Olympic venue shift

by Richard Gladwell, on 27 Jan 2016
Bronze medalists, Erik Heil and Thomas Plossel (GER) sailing in the 2015 Pre-Olympic Test regatta, Rio de Janeiro Sailing Energy/ISAF
World Sailing says that it is surprised by comments attributed to the former ISAF Chief Executive Officer Peter Sowrey in a recent interview with Associated Press.

The story which appeared today claimed that Peter Sowrey, who had lasted just five months in the CEO role, had been pushing for a Sailing Olympics venue move.

Sowrey was making similar noises in a story run on August 22, 2015, also in Associated Press, where he said, following the 2015 Pre-Olympic Regatta that if the water pollution issues were not resolved satisfactorily, then the sailing courses would be moved out onto the ocean, where the water is cleaner.

In a written statement issued by World Sailing the sports ruling body says that 'of their own accord, the Hotel Association, the Commercial, and Business Association of Buzios and the Buzios Convention & Visitors Bureau wrote to the ISAF President on 27 July 2015 offering the services of their city as an alternative Olympic sailing venue.'

'Under the guidance of Chief Executive Officer at the time, Peter Sowrey, the President wrote back on 3 August 2015 with the following statement, 'As you know the venue for the Sailing event of the 2016 Olympic Games was evaluated and approved some years ago. There are no plans currently to consider other venues.'

'World Sailing continues to work in close partnership with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and the International Olympic Committee to ensure that the venue is suitable to provide an outstanding Olympic Sailing Competition,' the statement concludes.

In the Associated Press story, Sowrey says was fired for pushing to get rid of polluted Guanabara Bay as the sailing venue of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Peter Sowrey tried to change the venue, or, at least, have a 'B plan' but says 'I was told to gag myself on the subject.'

'The board felt I was way too aggressive,' Sowrey said. 'They basically voted me out. I didn't resign. The board finally told me to leave.'

Sowrey said looking at Guanabara Bay on 'fact-based, data-driven models we would never consider sailing in that quality of water.'

'I did a plan with Buzios and tried to push it through,' said Sowrey, who also lives part-time in the town. 'I couldn't win that battle, not internally at ISAF (World Sailing) and I couldn't win it with the organizers. I was perplexed why there was no backup sailing plan. It's only sailing, after all, it's not curing cancer.'

For the full story from AP click here

However even plans to move the sailing out into the ocean are only moving them into cleaner water.

A recent story in the New York Times by Chris Clarey reviewed sailing efforts to lead the way in cleaning up the world's oceans, a move triggered by the pollution related incidents and issues around the 2016 Olympic Regatta in Guanabara Bay.

Several sailors reported significant infection from sailing in the polluted water, and at least, two were hospitalised, during or after the test event.

“It’s way worse than any of these people imagine,” said Ian Walker, a British skipper and former Olympic silver medalist who won the Volvo Ocean Race in June. “People think the pollution in Rio is in the harbor, and it’s fine out at Copacabana and on the open sea. But I remember sailing in from the ocean, and when you are about 50 miles out, you hit the stench and the changing color in the water. So even the people who go in the water swimming off Copacabana beach everyday are basically swimming in filth, but they don’t realize it.”

For the full New York Times story click here

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