Rio de Janeiro’s mayor has admitted that the much-touted goal of cleaning up the Brazilian city’s blighted waterways in time for the 2016 Olympics will probably not be met, with just 500 days until the games begin.
Eduardo Paes told SporTV that cleaning up Guanabara Bay, the sewage and rubbish-infested channel where the Olympic sailing events are to be held, “is something that we should have been able to achieve”.
“It is indeed a wasted opportunity,” he said, adding: “As a Rio resident, I think it’s a shame.”
Without a well-developed sewage collection and treatment system or reliable rubbish collection in the sprawling urban area that rings the bay, tons of mess and raw sewage flow into the bay, also affecting Rio’s world-famous beaches.
While the first government programmes to clean up the bay date back more than 20 years, little progress was made. But in Rio’s Olympic bid, authorities promised a massive clean-up effort that would be an enduring legacy of the games.
But as the games have drawn nearer with little evidence of progress and an often-changing action plan, officials from the governor to the state’s environmental chief have voiced their scepticism that the Olympic promises could still be met.
Athletes too, have sounded the alarm bells about water conditions in Guanabara Bay, with many worried about falling ill from the spray of the sewage-filled water, as well as potential collisions with floating rubbish.
But Olympic officials have continued to insist that the promises over the clean-up would be met in time for the games.