It sounded too good to be true. Thanks to the Olympics, Rio’s rubbish-strewn, sewage-contaminated Guanabara Bay would transform into a pristine watershed as the premiere venue for rowing and sailing. But the cleanup effort never materialised in earnest, and earlier this year, the city said it would actually take 20 more years to complete. A new investigation offers a very simple hypothesis for why the water stayed dirty: someone stole the money.
A report from Reuters looks at a team of investigators that has been studying widespread corruption around the construction of Olympic venues. The investigation was then expanded to include “legacy” improvements; that is to say, federal funds which were specifically allocated for projects which would benefit Brazil’s residents long after the games. Like eight sewage treatment plants that might prevent human waste from flowing into the city’s recreational water supply. (Only one facility was built.)
According to federal prosecutor Leandro Mitidieri, there was plenty of money earmarked to clean up Guanabara Bay and several other lakes that will be used for water sports. Yet with under 100 days to go until the start of the games, the water is still polluted and littered with waste. In fact, the international governing body for sailing is taking matters into its own hands by removing rubbish from the water and erecting fences to make sure no additional debris flows into the bay.
It’s not just the water that athletes will be competing in that’s under investigation. The water that people are drinking could also be tainted:
Another team of federal prosecutors, along with federal police, is investigating whether the Rio de Janeiro state water utility company Cedae committed environmental crimes by not properly treating sewage in Rio’s metropolitan area of 12 million people, Mitidieri said.