By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After the confession of Rio state environmental minister André Correa that the Guanabara Bay will not be cleaned in time for the 2016 Olympic sailing and windsurfing contests, officials have admitted that there is no “Plan B” to hold the competitions at a different place.
Correa admitted in a press conference last Friday January 23rd that the Olympic pledge of an eighty percent cleanup of the often as “sewer” described Guanabara Bay will not be possible. “Removing eighty percent of the pollutants? It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen,” the minister, who took office earlier this month, explained.
The promise to cut the flow of pollutant in the bay by around eighty percent was a key part of Rio’s Olympic bid and was seen as one of the most important legacies of the games for the city. However, now 1.5 years before the event it seems increasingly unlikely.
Correa estimated that investments of around US$3.8 billion would be necessary to halt the untreated sewage of the greater Rio area flowing into rivers and ultimately into the bay. However, Correa’s biggest concern are the floating items in the bay and not the quality of the water, which he deems safe for the sailors.
After being asked about Correa’s statements, the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games admitted on Tuesday, January 27th that there was no Plan B for the sailing and windsurfing competitions.
Mario Andrade, spokesman of the Rio 2016 stated that the sailing competitions “will be held in the Guanabara Bay, under the best possible Olympic conditions.”
Andrade insisted that authorities are on target and explained that the initial promise had been to introduce sewage treatment in the cities around the bay to eighty percent and not that to reduce the amount of pollution already in the water by eighty percent.
To do so, eight river treatment units are planned that are supposed to filter out almost all pollution before it reaches the bay. However, so far, only two of these units have been built.
“As far as the Guanabara Bay is concerned, what I wanted to say here today is that everything’s on track, everything’s is progressing,” Andrade said. “There is no plan B… There will not be any televisions floating in the sailing events.”
In other Olympic news, it has been announced that 25 percent of all infrastructure projects for the games do not yet have a finishing date. Of the 56 projects, 42 or around 75 percent have a deadline, while for the remaining ones none has been defined.
The total of the projects will cost R$6.6 billion and more than last time announced. However, around R$4.24 billion will be paid by the private sector.
Rio Mayor Eduard Paes has also announced that Rio de Janeiro will have at least three holidays during the sports competition in 2016. The first will be the day of the opening ceremony on August 5, 2016, while the other two will be defined later and held on days with a lot of simultaneous competitions.
School holidays have also been moved from July to August, so they are held during the Olympics. However, Paes doesn’t want the Cariocas to leave the city as happened in London in 2012, but to reduce the impact of the games on Rio.