In Rio's Olympic Waters: Corpses, Sewage

Rio has a long way to go in clean up of Guanabara Bay

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted May 19, 2014 11:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – With the clock ticking on Rio's 2016 Olympics and tongues wagging about its lack of preparedness, the New York Times today turns to a rather disgusting item on the Games' checklist that Brazil seems to have missed: Guanabara Bay, the site of the sailing and windsurfing events. Despite Brazil's promise in its Olympic bid to clean up the bay, sewage (of which 60% is untreated) and garbage flow into it unchecked and might well give Olympians incentive to move a little faster, even though the stench makes many hesitate to so much as dip a toe in. And with the first test events just months away, sailing officials tell the AP that they want independent water testing. This after the AP obtained a letter from Rio state's environment secretary acknowledging that at most pollution flowing into the bay could be cut by half—not the 80% Brazil promised.

"It can get really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water turning brown from sewage contamination," says one Olympic hopeful who ran into a sofa while sailing in the bay; the German sailing team called it "the dump that is Rio." One Brazilian sailing legend (who says he's seen human corpses on four occasions while sailing in the bay) wants the events moved to waters hours away, but officials insist progress is being made and that fecal contamination levels are "satisfactory." Malarkey, says one biologist: "The bay is still a latrine. It’s an insult to Rio’s people to say it will be clean for the Olympics."

In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash floats on a polluted water channel that flows into the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash floats on a polluted water channel that flows into the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this May 15, 2014 photo, kids play in the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, kids play in the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash litters a forested area on the shores of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash litters a forested area on the shores of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash floats on a polluted water channel that flows into the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, trash floats on a polluted water channel that flows into the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this May 15, 2014 photo, untreated sewage creates a dark streak on the sand as it flows into the water of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, untreated sewage creates a dark streak on the sand as it flows into the water of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this May 15, 2014 photo, a man jumps into the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In this May 15, 2014 photo, a man jumps into the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Sugarloaf Mountain and the Guanabara Bay are seen in a blanket of early morning fog as the sun begins to rise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, May 16, 2014.
Sugarloaf Mountain and the Guanabara Bay are seen in a blanket of early morning fog as the sun begins to rise in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, May 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A man fishes on the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 10, 2014. Many had hoped authorities tackle decades of neglect and poor planning that have blighted waterways.
A man fishes on the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 10, 2014. Many had hoped authorities tackle decades of neglect and poor planning that have blighted waterways.   (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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