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Rio Olympic Sailing Regatta – Fingers crossed? Or a Plan?


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  24 Mar 2016


Rio Olympic Sailing Regatta – Fingers crossed? Or a Plan?

Guanabara Bay has already hosted two Olympic sailing test events  Rio 2016 / Alex Ferro
While the Rio 2016 Olympics will no doubt present 'Sailing in a Postcard', the litany of horror stories that continue to 'flow' from the Guanabara Bay Olympic sailing venues does not bear repeating. Up to now we have spared you of the worst images.

Guanabara Bay  ISAF ©

The real fear is that the Olympic dreams of deserved champions will be extinguished with boats running into floating objects on the field of play, or illness from bacterial or viral infection from the heavy sewerage contamination either in the marina area or on the water, or from Zika virus.

World Sailing is very much aware that these negatives could take the media focus complete away from the sailing action on the water and a lot of time, money and energy is being spent trying to minimise the risks.

Debris barrier on 18 creeks feeding into the Bay and eco-boats collecting debris will in theory remove the floating debris issue. But there is still more to be done.

We talked again this week to World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt now nine weeks in the hot seat.

‘As we said recently we are cautiously optimistic about progress. In Rio, we've inspected the sewerage outflow work which affects the marina. It is almost complete.

‘We sat down with the City, state, environmental agency and others, asking some difficult questions.

‘Then the question is when the sewerage 'belt' goes into operation in April, will it have made the difference needed?

'Note that the water testing starts in May after there has been time for water in the marina to be tidal refreshed.

‘Of course no one will know until we get to that point however all the predictions indicate the water quality should be dramatically improved.

‘The area where we have still got a challenge today is in the Marina, if there was unseasonal rainfall during the Games so hopefully this will solve it.

‘If it doesn't of course we have got a whole range of contingency plans. Bio-remediation and other things if needed.

‘Zika virus, in terms of athletes competing is obviously something really for the national committees and the MNAs need to advise sailors on.

‘With the drier weather in August, there will less of the Zika virus carrying mosquitos around. We will do our part providing the athletes and officials in terms of what they need to do to get a basic preventative measures procedure. ‘

'While it's obvious that the athletes are mostly taking the attitude that whatever the risks are they will take them, in their quest for medals, not everyone is taking the same approach.

The overall enthusiasm for the Games is obviously waning with ticket sales down and already some accredited sailing media are notifying their publications that for family reasons they no longer wish to go to Rio.

The Duty of Care issue continues to loom large and interestingly Hunt admits World Sailing is waiting on clarification from the IOC, on where legal liability lies in the case of serious health issues any athlete, or their partners or children suffers as a result of participating in the 2016 Olympic Sailing regatta.

Sewerage pouring into the marina at the edge of the racing area on Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro  

World Sailing will be keenly seeking rapid progress in the months ahead and hoping for fine weather before and during the regatta but given the state of the Brazilian economy and a major shortfall between promises and reality up to now only an Optimist will believe that it will all be Right on the Night.

One thing is for sure, there will be no image coming from Rio of our own Richard Gladwell, the noted sailing journalist chewing on some green algae as happened in Qingdao in 2008.

Plainly sailing should have been relocated away from Rio to a cleaner waterway and hopefully in future there will be stronger involvement from World Sailing with Olympic bidding cities about their proposed sailing venues, at the stage they are trying to win support for their overall bid so that this debacle will not happen again.

Guanabara Bay Feb 2016  ©

Physical debris in Guanabara Bay - Project Guanabara Limpa  Project Guanabara Limpa

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