Olympic sailors, rowers shrug off reports of Rio’s polluted waters

“We’ve spent a lot of time there the past few years and haven’t had any issues with the water,” said Railey.

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“Honestly, Rio has been doing a great job with the water, we haven’t had any issues. I think it’s fine. I even swim in it, it doesn’t bug me at all.” The waters along Rio’s Atlantic coast have been polluted for years and successive governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on supposed clean-ups to little effect. Parts of the bay’s coastline are littered with garbage such as tires, sofas, old televisions and plastic detritus.

Biologists last year said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria resistant to antibiotics that cure urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections. When Rio de Janeiro bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the city trumpeted the clean up and said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent.

But it has since admitted it is unlikely to meet that target, something Mayor Eduardo Paes called a “lost opportunity” for the city.

Earlier this year, the Rio de Janeiro state government said the amount of sewage treated before reaching the bay had risen to 49 percent from 17 percent. The state environment secretariat on Thursday rejected the study reported by the AP. It guaranteed an acceptable level of water quality in the race lanes, although not at the marina where the boats would set sail.

“By both European and American standards, the quality of the water is appropriate for the events,” the secretariat said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jeb Blount, Pedro Fonseca, Andrew Downie, Caio Saad, Steve Keating, Karolos Grohmann; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)