One of the main selling points of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics was the so-called legacy of the games. The events meant the government would have to move forward with investments made in transportation, roads, airports, and other infrastructure, benefitting host cities.
In the case of the Olympics, one of the big legacy elements was the clean-up of the Guanabara Bay. Projects and promises to clean the long-suffering waterway have fallen through for decades. The Olympics was the chance for Rio to finally get definitive action on the bay.
As part of the Olympics budget, the state planned to invest nearly $1 billion (R$2 billion) in clean-up efforts. But last April, the Rio state government slashed the clean-up budget by 95 percent. And the state of the Bay--filled with trash and raw sewage--remains woeful.
So as the Olympics draw closer, what's going on with the bay?
- This week, the Rio state environmental secretary admitted that the goal to cut 80 percent of pollution in the bay by 2016 would not happen. He added that an investment of $3.8 billion is needed for the clean-up. Experts estimate that it will require uninterrupted work over 20 years to fully clean up the bay.
- In December, scientists identified a "superbacteria" in the Carioca River, as well as on Flamengo Beach and Botafogo Beach. The bacteria is associated with hospital waste, can cause a variety of health problems, and cannot be treated with antiobiotics.
- The same month, Swiss sailors training in Rio for the Olympics reported falling ill after having contact with water in the bay, including fever and diarrhea.
- This month, the state environmental secretariat testing found that sand on some of the city's most popular beaches, including parts of Copacabana, Barra, and Arpoador, are not recommended for human contact due to contamination from dog urine and food waste.
So if the Olympics aren't enough to pressure authorities to make the clean-up a priority, what will?