World Sailing claim they are confident a new pipe belt and multiple courses are set to help combat concerns regarding the levels of pollution in the water at the Rio 2016 sailing venue Guanabara Bay.
The Marina de Gloria, where the sailors will launch their attempts at the Olympic gold, has been the subject of criticism with high levels of pollution and objects floating in the water, despite a vow to use the Games as a catalyst to clean the water being a key part of Rio's successful bid in 2009.
A study conducted earlier this year by Associated Press reported a "major risk" of athletes contracting illnesses, with at least two sailors having been taken ill during August's test event.
The World Health Organisation, however, recommended not using virus testing for routine monitoring at the venue and the newly rebranded World Sailing believe the new pipe belt, which has been installed underground and scheduled to open later this month, will help to reduce the pollution in the bay.
“I don’t think that anyone is naïve enough to suggest that the pipe belt cures all of the problems in Guanabara Bay, there are all sorts of issues with heavy rainfall and debris bringing a lot of bacteria into the bay,” said Alastair Fox, World Sailing’s head of events, during a conference call here today.
“The pipe belt won’t fix that, but for us it is very important as that is where we have seen the worst water quality, year in year out, over the past few years.
“There are alternative bioremediation and oxygenation plans that Rio can put in place so we will be there in early January to make sure the pipe belt is completed and starting to do what it is supposed to do, if it doesn’t there are other plans.”
Fox and World Sailing President Carlo Croce claimed the data at the August test events showed the bacteria levels were better than expected and pollution levels had been reduced on an annual basis in the bay.
They claimed that during the course of the test event 8.89 per cent of those who were out on the water picked up bugs or sicknesses, with very few of them having been determined to be as a result of being on the water and the rate of sickness had been “well below” what their doctor had been anticipating.
World Sailing had previously indicated that the event could be moved further out into the Atlantic in order to ensure cleaner water, however Fox dismissed the option, revealing the governing body had a seven courses to choose from in the event high rainfall increased levels of pollution.
Britain's Sarah Gosling, a gold medallist at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in the Yngling class, believes sailors are not focused on the levels of pollution present in the water and are looking forward to competing in a venue close to Rio de Janeiro itself, with the sport having been away for the centre of the Olympics in recent Games.
"Winning a gold medal will make up for anything, so it is really not that relevant," said the chair of World Sailing’s Athletes' Commision.
"Obviously pollution is a problem, the objects in the water are an issue, but we as athletes do feel the World Sailing and the International Olympic Committee are doing everything they can.
"For sailing to be in the centre of the Olympics, it's a massive deal.”
December 2015: Rio domestic airport to be closed for duration of Olympic sailing competition on Guanabara Bay
November 2015: Brazilian medal hope among sailors to welcome announcement of courses and schedule for Rio 2016 regatta
October 2015: Viral testing of polluted waters ruled out by Rio 2016 due to difficulty interpreting results
October 2015: Sailing officials for Rio 2016 competitions revealed by ISAF
September 2015: Exclusive: Brazilian officials should be blamed for polluted water at Rio 2016, claims British sailing chief