By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While controversy swirls around the issue of polluted water quality at the site of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, test events continue and a new sailing race started yesterday (August 15th) and will continue through August 22nd. Three hundred and eighty athletes from 55 countries are participating at the Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2015 at Marina da Glória in the Guanabara Bay of Rio de Janeiro.
The RS categories: X for men, RS: X for women, Laser (men) and Laser Radial (women) started the competition on Saturday. The athletes will sail in the lanes of the Rio-Niterói Bridge and the Naval Academy. Today there will also be races for the; 470 male, 470 female, 49er (men), 49er FX (female), Finn (men) and Nacra 17 (where the duo is formed by a man and a woman).
Spaniard Iker Martinez, of the Nacra 17 class, said he will take the test event to get to know the Guanabara Bay. “We are already training for several weeks in and out of the bay. The bay is spectacular, I think that it is one of the most beautiful in the world, but sometimes it is very difficult because there are many streams,” said the European athlete.
Despite praising the beauty of the location, Martinez expressed concern about the quality of the water because the bay receives untreated sewage from several neighboring municipalities. “Undoubtedly, the water could be cleaner. I worry that the bay has good health. As a sailor, I’m worried about the environment. There are people who got sick, I do not know if it’s because of the water or because of the food. I’m no expert and I can not judge. To me, personally, I wish the water was cleaner.”
Another athlete from Nacra 17, New Zealander Jason Saunders said he would also like the water to be cleaner, but said the water quality will not take his focus from the competition. “We came here to compete and we can not change the [Bay] situation. So let’s go there, do the best we can, under the conditions that are offered to us.”
The State Secretary for the Environment for Rio de Janeiro, André Corrêa, says in all areas the waters are within acceptable standards. “It’s all very well and there is no information about the interference of waste [floating solids]. Things are going very well.”
On August 13th, representatives of the International Olympic Committee visited Rio de Janeiro for the ninth time to evaluate progress of the preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games and ruled out testing the waters in the city for viruses. Controversy about the water quality in Rio had arisen again after the AP news wire service had funded independent tests with extremely damaging results.
Sailing will be the fifth test event in Rio de Janeiro since July, following volleyball, triathlon, rowing and equestrian. The road cycling event will take place on Sunday (August 16th) and marathon swimming will be staged the following weekend (22-23 August).