Competitors at Rio de Janeiro’s International Sailing Regatta say they have had to take precautions to avoid falling ill in the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay.
The test event, marking the official start of the two-year countdown to the 2016 Olympics, has entrants from 34 countries including Team GB, which aims to win medals across the 10 classes.
But while it offers the chance for sailors to get to know the racing environment, the venue has been criticised for the high levels of sewage and rubbish pumped into the water from the city. Authorities face their own race against time to clean up the water and reach the government’s pledge to treat 80 per cent of the sewage that goes into the bay. Currently, almost 50 per cent of the sewage is treated.
Mathew Belcher, 31, Australian 470-class champion, said he saw a dead dog in the bay and that the water conditions were “not ideal”.
Sailors were taking care to wash kit thoroughly after training or competing despite official water quality tests stating that the pollution levels were within Brazilian safety standards.
Team GB’s 470-class silver medallist in 2012, 28-year-old Luke Patience, said: “We just need to be careful and stay healthy.”
Mario Moscatelli, a biologist who has been campaigning for better management of the bay since 1997, said: “If I were an athlete, I wouldn’t trust in the eternal optimism of the Brazilian authorities… Secondly, I would do as I do and vaccinate myself against Hepatitis A.”
Originally published in The Evening Standard