Olympic champion Hannah Mills talked to journalists in Penarth before flying to Rio

Olympic champion Hannah Mills talking to journalists in Penarth before flying to Rio

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”.

Hannah Mills and her partner Saskia Clark won silver medals at the 2012 Olympics in London

Hannah Mills and her partner Saskia Clark won silver medals at the 2012 Olympics in London

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” .

Hannah was in Penarth last month launching an RNLI lifeboat appeal

Hannah was in Penarth last month launching an RNLI lifeboat appeal

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”.


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  1. AK says:

    Many of the surf beaches in South West England are today reporting live sewage overflows as the treatment works are overwhelmed with the rain.

    I guess when we leave the EU, the water companies may simply revert to pumping the sewage into the sea, as they will no longer need to comply with the EU laws on water quality.

    • Martin Coffee says:

      The companies will have to stick with the same standards until the UK repeals it’s own legislation.

      I think the legislation will have to be repealed sooner rather than later as we wont be able to afford to maintain or improve our sewerage system in the future.

    • Tim Hughes says:

      Much of the UK drainage infrastructure was designed by Victorian engineers who used one pipe to carry both foul and rainwater. In dry weather the mostly foul water all currently goes to treatment, this continues when it rains and the treatment works has more water to treat but the water is less concentrated. If it rains very heavily the pipes themselves are unable to cope and the excess is diverted into the sea/river. These systems work well and I sometimes wonder if the cost of stopping it entirely is worth paying. If you look at your water bill you will find we pay more for the waste treatment than for getting the clean water.

  2. Christopher David says:

    Funny how Brazil got the “contract” ay!

  3. whatsoccurin says:

    Good luck to her-she should feel quite at home. Beaches are better now but it used to be said that if you went for a swim off Barry or Penarth all you were doing was “going through the motions!!

  4. Colin Davies says:

    I thought Hannah Mills was from Dinas Powys?

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