Smooth sailing at Pan Ams, rough waters ahead in Rio

Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:51pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - For sailors, the water they raced on at the Pan American Games this week will seem like Perrier compared to the notoriously fetid Guanabara Bay Olympic sailing venue that awaits them at next year's Rio Summer Games.

While yachtsmen battled for Pan Am medals in the clear waters around Toronto's Centre Island, hundreds of sunbathers splashed about in Lake Ontario on a sizzling weekend, a sight unlikely to be repeated in Rio de Janeiro with Olympic sailors who have visited the venue for test events complaining of floating sofas and animal carcasses.

"It's a big issue," Brazil's Fernanda Demetrio Decnop, bronze medalist in the women's laser radial, told Reuters. "It is huge, we athletes we complain a lot about that because we sail with the wind, we sail with the nature and we worry about the nature and it is terrible to have a place, my home where I sail and it is polluted.

"I am hoping they make something to improve it because until now I don't see much."

The cleaning of Guanabara Bay was a key part of Rio's bid pledge and has long been a goal of successive local governments.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent but the water remains fetid.

Biologists have said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria that is resistant to antibiotics and can cause urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.

When it bid to host the Games, Rio said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent.   Continued...

Sailing teams from the United States, Chile and Canada race during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports