U.S. sailor lends hand to clean Rio's bay before Games

Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:27pm EDT
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By Thales Carneiro

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Bobbing on Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay in a blue and white fishing boat, American sailor Brad Funk uses a plastic bin to scoop rubbish from the waters where Olympic sailing races will take place next month.

Funk missed out on his dream of competing in Rio 2016 in the two-man 49er sailing class, but traveled to Brazil anyway with the aim of clearing the path for those who did, including his girlfriend British windsurfer Bryony Shaw.

A native of Clearwater, Florida, Funk is leading his own clean-up effort to help remove rubbish from the Bay which is clogged by sewage from some 15 municipalities, home to some 9 million people.

“I decided that if I am not going to compete, I want the sailors to not have problems when they sail,” he told Reuters. “I love Rio, and it is very important to me that the Olympic Games is a success and the trash does not get stuck on the sailboats, taking medals away from them.”

In recent months, concern flared over pollution levels in the bay and nearby sea, where sailing, windsurfing and long-distance swimming events are being held.

Two academic studies seen by Reuters in June showed the waters were infected by drug-resistant super bacteria and microbes normally found only in hospitals.

The State Environmental Agency (Inea), which is conducting daily monitoring of water quality with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), insists the water quality is fine, helped by the rapid movement of water through the mouth of the bay where events will be held.

More worrying for many competitors, however, is the floating debris which could crash against boats and slow them down in the competition.   Continued...

American sailor Brad Funk collects garbage during a small clean-up effort to remove rubbish from the notoriously dirty Guanabara Bay, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach