What's in Rio's Bay and Beaches?
Olympic swimmers and other athletes, Rio residents, and dolphins encounter a noxious stew of pathogens and pollutants. What exactly is in that filthy water?
From the top of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf or the Christ the Redeemer statue that towers above the city, Guanabara Bay looks picturesque. But the ailing estuary, site of the Olympic’s sailing and rowing, is anything but pristine.
Roughly 16 million people live around the bay, making it one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas. Many neighborhoods lack proper sanitation, causing squalid water conditions, including raw sewage and extreme levels of disease-causing microorganisms in Guanabara Bay. Athletes have complained the water is littered with trash, and that it irritates their skin and causes stomach ailments. Some teams have instructed Olympic rowers to avoid splashing water on each other and to carry hand sanitizer onboard their boats.
These water pollution problems