Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Olympics in Rio? Bring it On!

"I don't believe it [that fecal bacteria, enteroviruses and rotaviruses are rife in the waters off Guanabara Bay, Brazil, where he fishes every day]."
"Sure, there is some pollution, but you get that anywhere in the world, not just in Rio. What the media says about Olympic sailors maybe getting sick is bulls--t. It has been greatly exaggerated for political reasons here so the government can steal more money."
"I mean, I've eaten fish from this bay every day for ten years and I've never had one problem. If there was a problem, why would the best restaurants on Copacabana be buying 80 or 90 percent of the fish that I catch and putting it on tourists' plates?"
Jose Nacimento de Oliveira, 51-year-old fisherman, Guanabara Bay, Brazil
Matthew Fisher/National Post
Matthew Fisher/National Post   Jose Nacimento de Oliveira is unbowed by reports that the bay where he fishes and where Olympic sailors and windsurfers will soon compete has pollution levels up to 1.7 million times greater than what is considered safe. 
"Sure, there is some pollution, but you get that anywhere in the world, not just in Rio." 
"I know what they say, but I am not afraid. There are still some clean parts in the middle of the bay where there is good fishing."
"I even catch swordfish sometimes."
Roberto de Oliveira, Brazil
Matthew Fisher/National Post
Matthew Fisher/National Post   Guanabara Bay at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain may look idyllic as weightlifters participate in the city's famous beach culture. But the waters of the bay where Olympic sailors and windsurfers are about to compete for gold include a super bug and a vile stew of viruses.

It's human nature to be casually dismissive of outsiders' criticism of what you hold most dear; your country, your way of life, your pride and your profession. What else is there, after all? The first fisherman is prepared to take home part of his catch for his dinner table, and the major proportion of it will go to market and it will sell out quickly, as it always does. Water pollution from untreated waste is a reality in Brazil whose government has never, it seems, recognized the utility of waste treatment.

Just incidentally this a massively corrupt government in a torrent of turmoil with accusations against top-echelon politicians, including its president and former president and their cronies. It is also a country whose economic future looked far better a scant few years ago. And it is a country with an immense indigent population whose welfare successive governments have found it quite easy to overlook, people living in squalor for whom basic services are denied.

There is the calamity of the Zika virus, with an astonishing number of babies born with encephaly and newly discovering that a brain disorder is also surfacing among adults who contract Zika from the mosquitoes that carry it. But it is a country attempting to calm the fears of outsiders to ensure that their summer Olympics in Rio are a success in party city, an event in which the country has invested precious funds that could and should have gone to upgrading its basic civil amenities for the poor.

During last year's Olympic trials many who had inadvertently ingested the foul sea water were soon ill with gastrointestinal infections causing diarrhea and vomiting, or had to suffer the effects of headaches, skin infections and respiratory symptoms. While Rio officials are attempting to persuade the world that Zika will present no problems during the Olympics, they cannot possibly guarantee that the sport events requiring use of the seawater will be without health risks.

Matthew Fisher, in Brazil for the National Post to cover the Olympic events speaks of the likelihood of the cause of water-borne super bacteria resulting from untreated hospital waste. But that factory chemical waste is another obvious reason for the dreadful condition of the water, along with the usual suspect; untreated human waste spewing out of open sewers; visible, stinking and threatening to human health.

Sailors training close to the Botafogo Beach below Sugarloaf Mountain have reported a foul brown scum covering the bottoms of their boats once hauled out of the sea. A superbug known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae has been identified as lurking in the sea water, by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation laboratory, a government research centre. The pathogens have been discovered at a rate thousands of percentages above safety levels in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon where the triathlon and 10-kilometre marathon swim are scheduled.

The Associated Press contracted for tests last year and those tests came back with the data that in some areas where the Olympic events will be taking place, contamination exceeded American safety standards by up to 1.7-million times. Brazil had pledged its intention to expend several billions in clean-up of the sanitation system of Rio de Janeiro. A fraction of that amount has gone the way of clean-up, leaving the problem of untreated waste to continue washing into the sea.

The good news,  however is that a few sewage plants have been built, capable now of cleansing 50 percent of the human waste representing the city's 12-million inhabitants' bodily cast-offs, an obvious improvement over the previous 11 percent figure. Crews of clean-up personnel in small boats have been set to work collecting the disgusting flotsam bobbing in the sea. Which hasn't gone too far in changing the condition of the beaches, still thought of as unsafe for recreational swimmers at least a third of the year.

The city that fun has never left has other problems apart from the millions in their slums and where close to 2,500 murders took place in the first six months of the year. A city where threats of violence vie with its good humour. While impeachment glares Brazil's president in the face, police bear signs printed in English at the airport, alerting incoming guests to the country that they shouldn't assume their security will be assured, since police haven't been paid and they're, ahem, on strike.

Matthew Fisher/National Post
Matthew Fisher/National Post   A Brazilian marine stands guard on July 28, 2016, near the Olympic sailing and windsurfing venues on Guanabara Bay, which has iconic Sugarloaf Mountain as its backdrop. Terrorist attacks and street crime threaten the Rio Games but the greatest danger to Olympians may be in the severely polluted waters of the bay.

Labels: , , , ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Follow @rheytah Tweet