Dead dogs, cars and a "nasty stench" but first Rio 2016 test event considered success

Saturday, 09 August 2014
By Nick Butler

Giles Scott celebrates his dominant victory in the finn class during the Test Event in Rio ©ISAFPollution levels and sewage in Guanabara Bay have predictably been criticised by some of the world's leading Olympic sailors during the first test event of Rio 2016 but have not totally overshadowed the competition. 

It was revealed last November that Guanabara Bay has 78-times Brazil's legally allowed limit of fecal pollution, and 195-times the United States limit, with Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes subsequently admitting plans to reduce these levels across the entire Bay, billed as a major legacy of the Games, would not happen. 

Earlier this year International Sailing Federation (ISAF) head of competitions Alastair Fox admitted to insidethegames that holding the test event would be "difficult" as planned measures to deal with the pollution would not have come into operation.

Among the participants to complain has been Darren Bundock of Australia, a two-time Olympic silver medallist, second in the Nacra 17 class, along with Nina Curtis, who spoke of colliding with submerged objects and dodging mounds of ­rubbish during races.

According to the Australian Daily Telegraph, dead dogs, cars, rats, furniture and a part of the wall have been among items seen in the water, along with a "nasty stench". 

This has been a particular problem in recent days, where a run-out tide has brought rubbish onto the course that had not been there at the beginning of the week.

But concerns have been far lower than initially predicted and has failed to disrupt the success of the week-long event, the first test event to be held for Rio 2016. 

Christ the Redeemer has provided an iconic backdrop for sailors competing in the Rio 2016 test event in Guanabara Bay, where dead dogs, cars and part of a wall have been among the sewage that the competitors have had to battle against ©ISAFChrist the Redeemer has provided an iconic backdrop for sailors competing in the Rio 2016 test event in Guanabara Bay, where dead dogs, cars and part of a wall have been among the sewage that the competitors have had to battle against ©ISAF



Among the sailors to have excelled on the course so far has been Great Britain's Giles Scott.

He has never competed in the Olympics, despite being the reigning European champion and the 2011 world champion, because the single spot in the British team has been taken by four-time gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie. 

But, with Sir Ben now retired from Olympic competition, Scott has an opportunity to excel at 2016 and he set down a marker wrapping up gold ahead of the medal race, with France's Jonathan Lobert taking silver ahead of Scott's team mate Ed Wright.

France's Billy Besson and Marie Riou defeated Bundock and Curtis to win the Nacra 17  event, while New Zealand's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke clinched the men's 49er title.

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze took gold for the Brazilian hosts in the corresponding women's 49er class, a new addition to the Olympic programme, with Alex Maloney and Molly Meech of New Zealand, another pair who had criticised pollution levels in the build-up to the event, claiming silver.

On the final day of competition today, there were two more victories for Australia as Tom Burton emerged triumphant in the laser class while Mat Belcher and Will Ryan won in the men's 470. 

Anne Marie Rindom of Denmark took the laser radial honours, while Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie of New Zealand secured victory in the women's 470 competition. 

The men's 470 fleet on the final day of action on Guanabara Bay ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe men's 470 fleet on the final day of action on Guanabara Bay ©AFP/Getty Images



"The Aquece Rio International Regatta has been a very successful regatta for ISAF," Fox said afterwards. 

"We have completed many of our goals in testing the competition areas, building our understanding of the local conditions and getting to know the national officials and the Rio 2016 team.

"We have a lot of information to take away and evaluate."

Although the legacy objectives regarding pollution will not be met, the regatta was also the stage for several education, art and sustainability initiatives, designed to involve local young people as part of the Rio 2016 Education Programme.

While the racing took over the bay, an environmentally themed exhibition featuring painted sails occupying the area around the course, with the graffiti-style art the work of 200 pupils from five Rio schools.

The International Sailing Regatta was the first in a series of 45 national and international events that will take place up until May 2016, although most of these will not get underway for another year from now.

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