2016 Olympics in Rio End Without Major Splash

Olympics sailing

Despite worries and heavy scrutiny over a variety of crises that had threatened to plague the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro--from security and the Zika virus to fetid Guanabara Bay, site of the sailing competitions—the games took place glitch-free on all of these fronts, Olympic officials and local authorities said. 

During the games, the city’s homicide rate dropped and only one new case of the Zika virus was reported in Rio.

And even though two Olympic diving pools turned green because chemicals used to treat the pool’s pH levels neutralized the chlorine and caused algae to grow, this was not a health threat. 

Because Guanabara Bay is contaminated by fecal matter (50 percent of the sewage going into the bay is untreated) and floating debris, there were pre-Olympic concerns that the pollution could turn the sailing race lanes into a health risk and an obstacle course.

“The sailing races were a success and regatta athletes reported no health problems or complaints about bay debris. That’s because measures were taken to ensure safe competitions,” said But Philip Wilkerson, a spokesman for the Organizing Committee of the Rio 2016 Olympics, told Bloomberg BNA last Friday.

The committee tested the quality of bay water daily to make sure it was within World Health Organization bathing standards and contracted helicopters to fly above the racing lanes in search of debris, Wilkerson said.

The Rio de Janeiro state government set up eco-barriers and contracted 12 eco-boats to scoop up floating bay debris. The eco-barriers involved highly resistant steel grating strung across 17 main rivers that receive untreated sewage before flowing into Guanabara Bay.

Despite such precautions, last Tuesday, Brazilians Isabela Swan and Samuel Albrecht, competing in the two-person, Nacra-17-class catamaran races, complained to journalists about debris, described as “trash,” which was in their rudder and hampered their performance, Tiago Campante, a spokesman for the Brazilian Sailing Confederation, told Bloomberg BNA last Wednesday. 

Last Thursday, Brazilians Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, who won a gold in the 49erFX-class, two-person, dinghy race, said that other sailing colleagues had complained to them about polluted water and debris in the racing lanes, Campante said.

“But no one has lodged an official complaint about this” with the Brazilian Sailing Confederation, he said.