31 days before the official opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games, it seems that many problems are unsolved. It also seems that the environmental footprint of the games will be probably the worst ever due to the combination of the Brazilian political and economic crisis with the environmental challenges of Rio de Janeiro itself.
The city’s polluted Guanabara Bay, that will hold Olympic sailing and swimming events, seems to be the worst problem. According a recent report by the Brazilian Waste Expo, 10,000 litters of polluted wastewater per second will continue to flow in the Guanabara Bay and almost 90 tones of floating waste will continue to feed the exotic scenery. This is the natural consequence of leaving 4,5 million people, from the surrounding 15 municipalities, without any sanitation!
Brazilian officials pledged to rid the waterway of at least 80 percent of the raw sewage and trash polluting it. But last year, as the Huffington Post recently reported, the Associated Press analyzed the bay’s water and found that it was still disgustingly polluted with “disease-causing viruses directly linked to human sewage at levels up to 1.7 million times what would be considered highly alarming in the U.S. or Europe.” Athletes who have participated in test events there have fallen ill or suffered from MRSA infections afterward. Rio has erected temporary “eco-barriers” in an attempt to hold trash and pollution out of the main parts of the bay, and the IOC has insisted that athletes will be safe, even though it won’t run its own tests on the water.
The Secretary for the Environment of Rio doesn’t even have a timetable to finish the project, claiming that it would need extra $3 billion to do it. We know that’s not going to happen. Two urban lagoons were supposed to be depolluted as well. The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, in the rich Zona Sul region, was going to become suitable for bathing. That dream was abandoned, of course. Next to the Olympic Park, the problem is even worse. The Jacarepaguá Lagoon exhales bad odor, and could be a horrific display of dead fish. In September 2015, city officials took roughly 1 ton of dead fish from the water – and a similar thing could happen this year. The project to improve the condition of the lagoon is suspended, due to suspicions that corrupt companies had tampered with the bidding process.
The problems got even worst when few days ago, the governor of Rio de Janeiro declared a state of financial emergency and begged for federal support to avoid a “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management”.
The New York Tines, in a recent opinion article described the situation like this “Measures like these are usually taken for an earthquake or a flood. But the Olympics are a man-made, foreseeable, preventable catastrophe”. Or as reporter Vanessa Barbara wrote “IT’S official: The Olympic Games in Rio are an unnatural disaster”.
The environmental problems are on top of the current health crisis related to Zika virus. Some say that we are going to have the Zika Olympics. Julie Beck,commented “This is not only Olympic Summer—it is Zika Summer, with rising northern hemisphere temperatures bringing the possibility of Zika’s mosquito steeds riding north and furthering the spread of the outbreak that is already affecting nearly 50 countries and territories”. In addition, a group of more than 200 doctors, bioethicists, and public health specialists, think that no one should be going in order to avoid Zika. They posted an open letter online calling for the Rio Olympics to be postponed or moved “in the name of public health.” They invoke the CDC’s recommendation that people “consider delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.”