Within the last few days IOC President Thomas Bach met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and said he feels ‘very confident’ in the preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But Bach acknowledged once again that Brazil has no time to lose and must speed up work for the first Olympics in South America.
The Brazilian authorities promised to clear up the bay which is due to host Olympic sailing events. Guanabara Bay is one of the iconic sights of Rio de Janeiro but industrial and human pollution still remain a major problem That is despite Rio’s Olympic bid including the promise to clean up, but Guanabara Bay, one of the iconic sights of Rio de Janeiro, is still blighted by sewage two years before the games. According to the Deputy State Secretary of Environment, just 34 per cent of Rio’s sewage is treated while the remainder flows untreated into the waters.
Rio’s preparations have been plagued by delays, the late approval of an operating budget and concerns about water pollution in Olympic venues for sailing, canoeing, rowing, and distance swimming. IOC members have talked openly about their worries and have constantly urged Rio organizers to move faster. ‘We are very confident,’ Bach said after talks with Rousseff in Brasilia. ‘We’ve seen great progress in the last couple of months.
‘The organising committee has worked extremely well. But on the other hand, the president (Rousseff) also made it clear that time is key and we don’t have any day to lose.’ Bach was making his first visit to Brazil since being elected president of the International Olympic Committee in September. ‘I came here in full confidence that these Olympic Games will be exciting and brilliant Olympic Games,’ Bach said.
‘After this meeting I can inform you that my confidence is even stronger now because I’m really greatly impressed by the strong commitment of the president to these games and by the leadership she’s showing.’ The German was upbeat after meeting with Rousseff and said the Olympics would make Rio an even better city.
‘I’m sure that after these Olympic Games the people of Rio and the people of Brazil will say – like for instance the people of Barcelona or the people of Munich – there is a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games, and there is an even better city – if in Rio de Janeiro’s case that is possible – there is an even better city after the Olympic Games.’
After a long delay, Rio organizers are expected in the next few days to announce an operating budget. The original bid document listed the operating budget at $2.8 billion. Bid cities usually underestimate the costs, and observers expect the Rio operating budget to grow.
The operating budget is to run the games themselves. About $11 billion more in public and private money will be spent on games-related projects, costs reflected in a separate capital budget. ‘I can assure you this will be a very reasonable operational budget,’ Bach said. ‘The organizing committee is working very hard to respect the budget limitations and to make it really reasonable.’
Rio’s chief operating officer, Leo Gryner, said in August that $700 million in public money would be needed to balance the operating budget.
Since then, chief executive officer Sidney Levy, who took over a year ago, said the $700 million would not be needed with some new income expected from local sponsorships.
A recent report in the Belfast Daily Telegraph published the views of sailors who had spoken after they had visited the Rio de Janeiro venue
Ian Barker, who won a silver medal for Britain in the Sydney 2000 Olympics’ 49er class and now coaches Ireland, said it was the worst he had seen after sailing in 35 countries. He said sailors in training had to stop to disentangle their rudders from rubbish. “It’s a sewer,” he said. “It’s absolutely disgusting. Something has to be done about it. But you need the political will for these things to happen and at the moment it’s not there.”
“I’ve been sailing all over the world for 20 years now, and this is the most polluted place I’ve ever been,” said Allan Norregaard, a Danish bronze medalist in the 2012 London Olympics. “It’s really a shame because it’s a beautiful area and city, but the water is so polluted, so dirty and full of garbage.”
Rio’s Olympic organising committee has promised the pollution will be cleaned up when the Olympics open and the government has pledged to reduce 80% of the pollution flowing into the bay.
But the sailors doubt the problem can be fixed after festering for decades, and many worry about their health. Environmentalists say measures being taken are a “stopgap” likely to mask the problem, not cure it.
Lets hope for the good of all the competitors and officials that the area, which on the face of it appears such a beautiful location, can be cleaned up for the Olympic Regatta of 2016.
Reports from The Daily Mail and Belfast Daily Telegraph