Brazil is has come under increasing criticism today for failing to clean-up the sewage in the sea off Rio de Janeiro where Penarth’s Olympic sailing Champion Hannah Mills and partner Saskia Clark will be contending for gold medals.
Hannah – who comes from Dinas Powys and did much of her early sailing in Penarth – says there continues to be a “terrible smell” in Olympic marina at Rio – even though the authorities have been “doing their best to resolve the problem”.
However Hannah told PDN the real hazard for Olympic sailors at Rio isn’t so much the smell – or even the excrement in the waters of Guanabara Bay where the sailing events take place – but the spray which is constantly flung into the faces of sailing competitors.
She says that although four new drains are said to have been laid to improve sewage disposal in Rio there is still serious problem and competitors are finding that when their boats are taken out of the water the centerboards of their dinghies are often fouled with human excrement – but, she says, “We just have to get on with it”.
Today Eduardo dos Santos, the Brazilian Ambassador in London, was challenged on the BBC Today programme to explain why promises to clear up 80% of the pollution in Guanabara Bay had been abandoned .Dos Santos said “This is an old problem the Government has done its best to solve ” and that the International Olympic Committee had declared that the quality of the water was “enough for the competition” .
Added to the sewage is the risk of contracting zika virus from mosquito bites. Hannah Mills says “All we can do is take as much mosquito repellent as possible. We’ll just be sensible about it” but Brazil has been castigated for not doing more to clean up the city and its surroundings.
On top of the health risks there is also the risk being mugged in crime-ridden Rio de Janeiro. Both Hannah and Saskia Clark were robbed at knife-point in the city two years ago so they’re being extra careful about where they go.
Despite it all Hannah (28) says the thought of not competing at the Rio Olympics “never crossed her mind”.