Rio Olympic Organizing Committee Pledges To Clean Up City's Polluted Waterways
Rio de Janeiro's "endless beaches and lush tropical forest will be a photographer's dream during the 2016 Olympics," according to the AP. But "zoom in on the likes of once-pristine Guanabara Bay, and the picture is of household trash and raw sewage." In the neon green waters around the site of the future Olympic Park, the average fecal pollution rate is 78 times that of the Brazilian government's "satisfactory" limit -- and 195 times the level considered safe in the U.S. Nearly 70% of Rio's sewage goes untreated, "meaning runoff from its many slums and poor neighborhoods drain into waters soon to host some of the world’s best athletes." Unless Brazil makes headway in cleaning up its waters, experts warn that "the Summer Games could pose health risks to athletes." Rio's Olympic committee "has pledged in writing that the pollution problems will be fixed." Rio 2016 COO Leonardo Gryner "has acknowledged the extent of the water quality problem." But he said projects were "well advanced" to make good on the city's commitment to reduce 80% of the pollution flowing into the bay, where sailing and wind surfing events are to be held. It is not clear what consequences there might be if Rio does not clean up its waterways, but this is not the first time the Olympics "have faced steep environmental challenges." The IOC took "much flak" during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, "when the city failed to clean up its smoggy air in the event's initial days" (AP, 11/21).