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Rio de Janeiro's moment in the Olympic spotlight is coming up, and it's safe to say the lead up has not exactly been rosy for the city.

Rio's Guanabara Bay is unbelievably polluted

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 10:52 AM - Rio de Janeiro's moment in the Olympic spotlight is coming up, and it's safe to say the lead up has not exactly been rosy for the city.

On the more serious end of the scale of woe, the country as a whole has suffered political crises like the impeachment of the country's president, and health emergencies like the ongoing Zika epidemic. On the lesser, but sadly symbolic side, the upcoming Olympic games seem so cursed, one of its Jaguar mascots was shot by police after getting loose during a torch ceremony in the Amazon.

One of the more ominous ongoing Olympic hassles had been Rio's Guanabara Bay, which remains badly polluted as the games draw near.

The bay is filled with all manner of trash, dead fish, bacteria and viruses, such that many athletes seeking gold on the water are fearful of setting foot in it.

The latest complaint about the bay's water quality now comes from athletes due to compete in boat races: Apparently, the bay is so bad, white boats that enter it come out looking brown.

"You get mad because it shouldn't be like this anywhere," Camilla Cedercreutz, a sailor with the Finnish Olympic team, told the Associated Press. "It shouldn't be this dirty. But there's nothing we can do about it."

Rio de Janeiro is home to a great deal of heavy industry, and major shipping criss-crosses Guanabara Bay. As such, industrial pollution like oil slicks are another headache for sailors.

Spanish sailor Jordi Xammar told the AP he tried to avoid the oil slick in the bay while practicing, but the boats were still "completely brown." However, Xammar, who has been to Rio four times, says the water has improved compared to the previous year.

In a report by CBS, oceanographer David Zee says the Brazilian government hasn't followed through on promises to prevent pollution: Only one treatment plant was installed to handle river pollution in the city, rather than the planned eight, and only half of sewage flowing into Guanabara Bay is treated, rather than the goal of 80 per cent.

For their part, Brazilian authorities say progress has been made. Edes de Oliveira, production director for Rio's water utility, told CNN the 50 per cent treatment rate is better than seven years ago, when only 11 per cent was treated.

Guido Gelli, a spokesman with Rio's environment department, told CBS installing new sewage systems was difficult and expensive, and that there was "no problem" with the part of the bay where Olympic events will take place. CNN also notes International Olympic Committee authorities have not recommended moving the sailing events elsewhere.

SOURCES: Associated Press | CBS | CNN

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