Rio events could be moved from polluted bay

By Stephen Wade ,AP

RIO DE JANEIRO — The head of sailing’s governing body threatened Saturday to move all Olympic sailing events out of polluted Guanabara Bay unless the water is cleaner and floating rubbish is removed for next year’s Rio Games.

“If we can’t get the water to a level, then we’ll move it outside (to the Atlantic Ocean) — for sure,” Peter Sowrey told The Associated Press on the final day of an Olympic test event.

Such a move would be an embarrassment to local organizers and the International Olympic Committee. They have said repeatedly the water is safe despite being filled with floating rubbish and untreated sewage that gushes down gullies from hillside favelas.

Sowrey, the chief executive officer of ISAF, said one course for the test event inside the bay was closed after floating rubbish hindered racing for two days. Rubbish flowed into the bay despite little rain in Rio in recent weeks, probably the best weather officials could want.

He also complained he received no data during the week-long Olympic test from the state body that monitors water quality. A check of the website for Inea — the state institute — showed it had reported water quality on the bay only once in the last 10 days.

“We are not happy as a federation from the reporting on the water,” Sowrey said. “We’re not getting the reporting we expected to get.”

Rio’s pollution has been in the spotlight since an independent five-month analysis by the AP published July 30 showed dangerously high levels of viruses from human sewage at all Rio Olympic water venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and distance swimming.

The IOC has declined to endorse testing for viruses, which can cause stomach and respiratory ailments that could knock an athlete out of competition.

Sowrey said the closely watched sailing test event had gone “pretty well” from an operational viewpoint. But he said there was still too much raw sewage being pumped into the bay, and too much floating debris that makes fair racing impossible.

“If we can’t get it clean, we’ve got to do something,” he said.