Floating Garbage Polluted 2016 Brazilian Olympic Games

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Rio de Janeiro

Dirty games: Brazilian officials had conceded weeks prior that the disgustingly polluted Guanabara Bay wouldn’t be cleaned up in time for the 2016 Olympics, but said sailing events could still be held there. Some Olympic sailors had protested holding their events in the bay, saying they feared becoming sick from the contaminated water or ramming their boats into floating garbage.

Sailors touring the area said they saw animal carcasses and piles of junk, including sofas, bobbing in the water. But officials said the sailing lanes would be clear of debris and filth even if the goal < of cleaning the whole body of water could not be met. “It is a lost opportunity,” said Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes. “Depolluting Guanabara Bay is something we should have done.”



Brazil Finds Difficult to Clean up Rio's Waterways

Rio de Janeiro with its famous Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain as a backdrop is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. But a closer look at the Olympic city's waterways reveals a grim reality: the floating debris and raw sewage that the so-called "Marvelous City" finds it difficult to hide.

Mario Moscatelli, a biologist who has been monitoring the pollution for 20 years, hoped the Summer Games would force a clean-up of Rio's waters.

He has been taking the press for rides in his small boat on lagoons that surround the brand new Olympic Park -- hoping to embarrass officials into taking action.

"All you see here are environmental crimes that are committed daily. Not only here in the lagoons, but in the Guanabara Bay, everywhere," said Moscatelli.

He shows the source of the problem - raw sewage flowing from favelas, or slums, just one example, he says, of what happens in this part of the city.

The result is a mix of mud and human waste that releases gases such as sulfur and methane. Exposure to them can harm people's health, he says.

"It can cause respiratory tract problems, irritate your eyes, cause severe headaches, dizziness and vomiting," the biologist said.

Guanabara Bay, the venue for the sailing events, is so polluted that barriers have been installed to keep the trash off the course to be used for Olympic sailors. But Moscatelli suggests other precautions.

"Vaccinate athletes against Hepatitis A, avoid swallowing water, avoid having close contact with water," he said.

When Rio won the bid to host the games back in 2009, the authorities promised to clean 80 percent of the city's waters. Then they scaled it back to 50 percent, and now the goal is out of reach.

Rio's Environment Secretary Andre Correa recently admitted that cleaning the bay will not happen anytime soon.

"Whoever says, knowing the difficult financial situation faced by Brazil, that the bay will be cleaned up in less 20, 25 years is telling lies. It's a lie," said Correa.
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