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Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

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When I was little, we found a man. He looked like – like, butchered. The old woman in the village crossed themselves… and whispered crazy things, strange things. “El Diablo cazador de hombres.” Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse. “El cazador trofeo de los hombres” means the demon who makes trophies of men. 

This line from one of Hollywood’s true classics is as silly now as it was when we first heard it in 1987, but somehow, it seems to describe the decaying situation in all of Brazil, but especially Rio.  With thousands of athletes on the ground training in the hot, stinky city, reports are beginning to come in showing crime, corruption, construction, and political chaos pushing towards a furious crescendo.

Nationally, President Dilma Roussef came out of hiding the other day giving her first big international interview to Glenn Greenwald, and she shows no sign of ending the political civil war that’s led to millions of protestors in the street every few weeks, and a completely uncertain political future for the nation.

Closer to the Olympics, training for got a lot more hazardous recently.  One Spanish gold medal team was allegedly held up at gunpoint last week and robbed clean of gear, money, and papers last week by a band of banditos close to Olympic Sailing HQ at Marina De Gloria.  Their coach spent most of a day driving around with local police trying to find the thieves.

Also last week, a gunfight broke out in the Favela just above the grounds of the Rio Yacht Club in Niteroi; the training base for several national teams and Torben Grael’s home club. The members and athletes seemed to think it was fireworks at first – until they saw the boat workers running for cover.  According to the article in Veja, authorities would have covered it up (as usual) were it not for the athletes witnessing the gunfight – including a bullet grazing the wall of the club.  Until this event, the Danish and other teams’ request for more police security near the team bases were ignored.  Now, many of these teams just don’t walk anywhere – a taxi takes them even when they need to go a half a mile.

Yet while the crime and political/economic uncertainty are ever-present, they’re still something of a lottery; if you use your head and follow some basic rules, visitors to Brazil can minimize most risks  (and if inflation continues to skyrocket, you might actually get some incredible deals down there).  But there’s one risk that no sailor can really get away from – the water.  And as the rain starts to fall, it’s getting as bad as it ever has been.

On Tuesday, a new hue graced the bay – iridescent green, the color of anti-freeze, with a smell of ‘burning chemicals and decomposition.” (see pic below). One crew saw a huge sea turtle upside-down on the foamy green surface of the bay.  She was unsure whether it was the plastic entangling its face or the poisoned waters that killed it.

And then there is the pic that headlined this piece, shot on Friday smack in the middle of the Medal Race Course.  Well, we don’t know where the dog was shot – or even if it was a gun that did him in – but the photo was definitely shot there.  If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry, and aside from the poor bastards who have to compete there, our condolences go out to the proud Brazilians, their humiliation and shame on display to the entire planet – for three more months.

rioBrazil’s current crises – and yes, that’s plural – are likely to continue to worsen just as the world’s eyes are all turned Southward, with the once-burgeoning economy getting pulled back into the morass that’s defined so much of Central and South American politics and government for the better part of the past century.  Even if economic chaos is fairly common to much of Latin America, the confluence of factors hitting Brazil right now is something far worse.  The worst James Bond villain could never pull it all off; pollution, corruption, impeachment, Zika, a crime wave, and oil prices all crushing the country at the same time?  No way.

Were this the Winter Olympics, we’d end up shrugging our shoulders and saying, “oh, well, another fucked country,” and maybe sparing a few thoughts for its inhabitants, but this time, it’s different:  These are OUR friends and our families and OUR crews and our skippers in harm’s way, and the more they know you’re behind them, the more likely they are to stay safe.  We don’t know how it is that the IOC and ISAF are immune to worldwide pressure to actually behave responsibly, but if you care about your athletes, please continue to push via social media on those organizations, the media, and the Olympic sponsors.

 

May 22nd, 2016 by admin

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Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.52.02 AMChaos in Brazil is nothing new, but the past several months have seen things deteriorate in an unprecedented way. Just last week, over a million people protested the corrupt government and demanded President Dilma Rousseff’s resignation, but that was just a prologue.  Since then, that same President named the past President as her Chief of Staff, prompting the judicial release of wiretapped recordings of the President seemingly admitting she was appointing him to her cabinet to spare him from arrest for corruption.

That forced the people back into the streets, and with the worst recession in a century well on its way and the Zika Virus and pollution scandals destroying any chance the country had of converting the billions they’ve spent on the Olympics into tourism industry growth, it is entirely possible we’ll see a full national riot or a straight-up coup d’etat at some point in the next few months, if not during the Olympics.  It’s sobering stuff.

At the Olympic venue itself, somehow ISAF World Sailing is delighted that the Marina De Gloria sewage outflow will (possibly, maybe, hopefully) be capped sometime in May.  This is the same pipe past CEO Peter Sowrey promised to cap by last November regardless of politics…just before he got the boot.  We’re not oddsmakers, but we’re definitely not taking the bet that this time they’re telling the truth about the May date.  A better bet would be a few days before the Olympics starts.

The rowers are at least as nervous as the sailors (and the Divers are bitching now, too), especially given the kind of abuse their hands get.  The chemical, physical, and mental preparation for this one is on a level none have seen before, but Olympians are programmed to act, and they’ll bite down on their dental dams and get to work.  Few, if any, are turning down their spot out of fear – it’s just not in their genes.  Unfortunately for organizers, spectators are susceptible to fear, and they’re staying home.

It didn’t help that the mayor told the public not to blow their money on waterfront tickets, and instead set their chairs up on free land, “drink your beer in peace with your family…and watch the rowing for free.”

Bad news for the Olympics, but good news for the athletes and the media – it makes life easier for us.  And for sailing, it’s a mixed blessing – more people (online, anyway) and mainstream reporters will be paying attention to Guanabara Bay than to any Olympic sailing venue in history.  As long as no one loses a medal after getting a dead body wrapped around their rudder or loses a limb or their life from some shit-borne zombie virus, there’s a real chance sailing could win some new spectators – something the sport desperately needs after its second-to-last performance among all sports broadcasts in 2012.

Who says Sailing Anarchy can’t find a silver lining? Here’s the place to talk about everything Rio 2016.

 

 

March 18th, 2016 by admin

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Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 11.52.49 AMThe Grael family is as close to sailing royalty as exists in South America, so people listen when they speak.  So when millions of people hear her Gold favorite Martine Grael talking pollution on ESPN’s Outside The Lines, they’ll listen – even if Zika and the economy have taken some of the spotlight off the continually shocking pollution problems.  From the transcript:

In August, barriers installed across more than a dozen of Rio’s dying rivers will hold back garbage that otherwise might drift into the paths of Olympic sailors. A fleet of boats will patrol to keep debris from snagging on a rudder or centerboard and costing someone a medal. Some of the untreated human waste that has long fouled Rio’s beaches and docks and picturesque lagoon will be diverted from competitive venues so the athletes who have to navigate them need not worry.

This is what has been promised, anyway. This is the latest stopgap wave of promises made when it was clear the first wave wouldn’t be kept.

A brilliant, lowering sun silhouettes the irregular profile of the mountains behind Martine Grael as she stands on a beach strewn with sailboats after a day of racing at an international regatta on Guanabara Bay and voices her doubts. Grael, 25, is a newly minted member of the 2016 Brazilian Olympic team, the daughter of a gold medalist, a true child of these waters. She speaks with the sad conviction of someone watching a loved one suffer.

“It’s very clear that water treatment and education are the biggest focus on cleaning the water, and I haven’t seen almost anything being done in that way,” Grael says. “I think Rio has a very big coastline and people love to go to the beach, but nobody seems to care that the beach is getting dirtier and dirtier.

“The water’s still dirty and it stinks some days, and, I don’t know. You don’t need to study a lot to understand that it’s not going well.”

Read the most comprehensive story on Rio pollution yet here, or Watch the full video here.

 

February 18th, 2016 by admin

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IMG_3996We don’t have to feign shock at the latest comically silly behavior from the America’s Cup; the release of thousands of balloons into the air to celebrate the end of the otherwise non-noteworthy America’s Cup World Series Göteberg event.

It seems like just yesterday when the America’s Cup had partners like Sailors for the Sea to tell them that RELEASING BALLOONS IS NOT A FUCKING ‘THING’ ANYMORE!  Apparently, that kind of thing doesn’t matter to them anymore.  Or maybe they were jealous of all that press that Rio’s been getting.

But the environment matters to us as sailors, and we have long known that the balloon industries’ claims about biodegradable latex are mostly bullshit. Even the most ‘eco-friendly’ marketed balloons will be in the water or on the ground for months or years, doing wonderful things to the airways of fish, birds and mammals while decorating shorelines with their pretty colors as they ‘break down.’   That’s why no one with a conscience still releases balloons.

And even if they were biodegradable, would it matter? Cardboard boxes are biodegradable – does that give you the right to drop  thousands of them on a city from an airplane to celebrate your sailboat race?

Listen, folks – we get that the AC and its title sponsor Louis Vuitton has decided that super-wealthy are really all that matters for AC35′s bottom line.   But we don’t believe that you need to take a huge, stinking blue and yellow shit all over the environment just to show that you’re part of their club.

Unless…hang on a second…could it be that Russell Coutts is hunting for some of that big fat Gazprom sponsorship money? Hey Russell, here’s an idea for a ceremony to end the Bermuda ACWS event later this year: The party starts with a celebratory oil spill in the Great Sound, continues on to an all-you-can-eat conch, lobster, and bluefin tuna barbecue, and concludes with the release of thousands of mourning doves.  Be careful, though – it appears the Bermudians care more about their environment than you thought when you tried to steamroll them.

Title reference to something almost as nasty as the AC’s environmental stance (NSFW).

 

August 31st, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.44.21 AMA pair of big storms is set to drench the US, but without a major hit in some time, you can smell most of America (aside from the Weather Channel and Home Depot) getting complacent.  Are we so programmed to quickly forget the current tragedy that we’re doomed to repeat it?  A look at New Orleans’ rebuilt levee system says ‘probably.’

Meanwhile, Florida Governor (and Midnight Oil frontman impersonator) Rick Scott declared an emergency today for the already homicidal Tropical Storm Erika, though she’s likely to do little more than make a muddy state muddier.  Erika updates from the Anarchists are in the forums here.

And on the Left Coast, Hurricane Ignacio is teeing up on the Hawaiian Islands, where ancient crumbling stormwater systems, infected sewage discharges, and widespread beach closures threaten to turn American indignation at the Brazilian Olympic venue pollution into a discussion of first-world hypocrisy.  Monitor Ignacio over here.

 

August 28th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 9.58.56 AMAs Mr. Clean works on the report of his 8-day trip hanging with the US Sailing Team Sperry, combing through the pollution of Guanabara Bay, and the endless ass parade that are Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, we figured we’d share some information with you that explains why we don’t ask Olympic Athletes whether they ‘feel comfortable’ competing in nasty and dangerous water.  Because around half of them would literally choose death in five years if it guaranteed them a medal.  From a New York Times piece on doping comes this description of the Goldman Dilemma, and here’s a pertinent study.

There’s a well-known survey in sports, known as the Goldman Dilemma. For it, a researcher, Bob Goldman, began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were quite ready to take the bargain.

Only recently did researchers get around to asking nonathletes the same question. In results published online in February, 2009 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exactly 2 of the 250 people surveyed in Sydney, Australia, said that they would take a drug that would ensure both success and an early death. “We were surprised,” James Connor, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of New South Wales and one of the study’s authors, said in an e-mail message. “I expected 10-20 percent yes.” His conclusion, unassailable if inexplicable, is that “elite athletes are different from the general population, especially on desire to win.”

Check back later in the week for Sailing Anarchy’s carefully researched and written onclusion on the water problem.  And in the meantime, let’s give new ISAF CEO Peter Sowery some props for at least getting a threat to move the racing on record.

August 24th, 2015 by admin

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UPDATE: Associated Press reporter Stephen Wade did a little more digging after reading the SA piece below. His update is here.

You won’t see it in any official ISAF or IOC report, but the first major casualty (that we know about, anyway) of the Guanabara Bay pollution epidemic is now in a local hospital.  One of the top light-air RS:X specialists, Korean boardsailor Wonwoo Choo, was rushed to an ambulance yesterday afternoon with high fever, vomiting, chills, and dehydration.  More from “Danny OK”, and please share his post on the IOC and ISAF Facebook pages as many times as you can.  Only the most unrelenting pressure can force change against the tide of corruption, laziness, incompetence, and downright apathy, and only when Rio understands that this scandal may kill off what is left of their dwindling tourism industry will the local government do something about it.  Here’s Danny’s post:

More than 10 years of life-time effort can be destroyed in one day!  This is not an emergency situation, but it’s very disappointing.  He has been sick since last night with a high fever, vomiting and coldness, and he is now fully dehydrated.

It seems he got infected from virus somewhere in the racing site which is supposed to be safe and clean as an Olympic venue.  I hope this wouldn’t happen again not only for us, but for all sailors who compete on the same play ground.

Additionally, I hope IOC and ISAF must consider how the safety issue will be improved for the next year.

We may not able to clear all the issues, but we could minimize the risks.

 

August 19th, 2015 by admin

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Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 7.11.29 PMWe may not have come down to Brazil specifically to investigate the water pollution problems, but the situation is inescapable, and yesterday’s discovery of an open sewage outfall less than 50 feet from the main Olympic Sailing Center launch ramp was, well, shocking.  Local authorities panicked and sent over an oil containment crew with a floating boom…but that ain’t oil, and the inside of the Olympic harbor is now half water, half poo.  It’s one thing for a huge 3rd world city to have sewage problems, and our final report from Brazil will get deep into a situation which is neither uncommon nor surprising in a Latin American metropolis, but the level of incompetence required to have thousands of gallons of untreated waste flowing in the one place that every sailor touches every day, and that every reporter sees every morning?  It simply defies belief.

And the hits keep on coming; a 5-man media team was held at gunpoint and robbed of cameras and phones while covering the cycing test event yesterday, the same day hundreds of thousands of protestors – including tens of thousands on Copacabana and Ipanema – blocked major roads across Brazil while calling for the impeachment or military ouster of recently elected president Dilma Roussef.  Think American politics are messy?  She’s got an 8% approval rating…

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 9.52.18 AMOn a much more positive note, the US Sailing Team Sperry seems to be continually improving, with a good start in the Laser and Radial, and a great start in the 470 (and a seemingly healthy team, barring a few bruises).  The US currently holds second place in three classes, in fleets that are largely the same as they’ll be next year.  Peaking early, or a sign of great things to come?  We’re on the ground to find the answer.  Listen to yesterday’s interview with 470 chicks Bri and Annie here, and watch these pages for more.  Test Event Results here.

Onne Van Der Wal photo of new dad Stu McNay and Dave Hughes.

August 17th, 2015 by admin

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With so many Olympic sailors having grown up as part of the SA community, we’re especially pissed about the continuing mess in Guanabara Bay, Brazil. Longtime sailing cheerleader Glenn McCarthy is staying on top of it with one smart solution; we pulled this piece from Chicago Now.

HOW HARD IS IT TO MOVE A VENUE?

  • Years ago, a sailing event in Springfield, IL ran out of water in their lake due to drought, within two weeks, they had it rescheduled at Lake Geneva, WI some 250 miles away.
  • People who sail iceboats retain flexibility as a way of life.  A few years ago their World’s Championship was scheduled to be held in Minnesota, they held out hoping for cold to freeze their lakes, with less than a week to go, they shifted their World’s Championship to the Finger Lakes region of New York, 1,000+ miles away.

There are at least two open ocean venues where major regattas in Brazil have been held, one is 2 hours, 75 miles, away from Rio, another 4 hours away.  Having the sailing portion of the Olympics/Paralympics away from the host city is not uncommon.  In the 1996 Atlanta, GA Games, the sailing venue was 250 miles away in Savannah, GA.  At the 2008 Bejing, China Games sailing was held in Qingdao, China some 430 miles away.  In the 2012 London Games, sailing was in Weymouth, England about 135 miles away.

Sure moving the Olympics and Paralympics might be a tad more work, but there is over one year to do it.  That is ample time.  Rather than scrambling for housing for the competitors and race officials, a cruise ship can be rented and anchored off the beach.  A cruise ship is a floating city and can provide housing, meals, medical facility and lighters/tenders for shuttling people back to the shore.  A cruise ship was rented recently for housing for a convention in San Francisco recently.  Security can be done with a couple of Navy boats around the cruise ship.  Problem solved.

Read on.

 

April 14th, 2015 by admin

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Moth, skiff, and Red Bull Youth AC Anarchist Ian Andrewes checks in from his Nacra 17 action in Rio after 2 weeks of ‘the most effective training camp he’s ever been part of’.  It was also a trip that featured the disturbing sights of toxic sludge, a navy burial at sea right off the harbor mouth, and a fireworks display that sent a yacht club’s members fleeing for their lives; in other words, a typical month in Rio. We dig Ian’s take on the dilemmas of an Olympic trialler and we hope you do too.  Thank him over here, or over here.

When I first came down to Brazil in August after a last-minute decision, it was to compete in the AqueceRio Olympic Test Event. Everything was moving quickly and it wasn’t until my hour-long cab ride back to the airport that I found myself looking out the window, realizing I hadn’t spent enough time in this place. I didn’t understand what made Rio so unique or the way it manages to stay on just this side of total madness. How could I describe it to my friends and family?

I’d get another chance when we came back down this month, and I was determined to learn this place better and try to decide how I truly feel about the controversial waters Guanabara Bay. The Bay has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world, with absolutely perfect sailing conditions, and it’s been described as one of the most polluted and horrendously disgusting bodies of water in the world, completely inappropriate for any waterborne activity.  And both are correct.

My first day back this trip, one of first things I noticed was the lack of trash in the water compared to last summer; conditions that had required a rudder or board cleaning every 50 meters then.   Much can be attributed to the odd garbage scows, roaming the water like giant aquatic Roombas and scooping up everything in their path, including the odd junior in an Opti.  It struck me as a wonderful improvement, but then I started to notice the water color – not the brown of the typical estuarine bay, but the thick, particle-choked haze of the untreated sewage flowing directly into our racing area.

I do believe this place is seriously sick. The waters are not just dirty; they are toxic and poisonous. Every day thousands of dead fish have been washing up on the beaches like its the apocalypse – their rotting bodies adding to the already pungent aroma of raw sewage at low tide. The ones that aren’t quite dead flop around in an epileptic dance of rainbow-hued oily sludge and sand right until their death.

I have noticed a decrease in the amount of garbage in the Bay, but there’s still plenty of work to be done, and I think all the sailors are hoping their organizations keep the pressure up.

Rio is a strange place, difficult to compare easily to other cities I know. Favelas rule the politics despite being made up of the poorest squatters and the nastiest criminals. Some people seem to pay taxes, but most don’t.  In Niteroi, just across the bay, you find multimillion dollar houses along the waterfront, immediately adjacent to squatting families living in shacks made of driftwood, corrugated steel, and dock scraps.  But of course the shacks are loaded with electricity, satellite TV and running water courtesy of the welfare system…All of this disparity and more yet nobody seems all that disgruntled.

In fact, most locals I’ve met seem generally quite happy. Maybe they complain about a politician’s decision or about the bad traffic, but the conversation never seems to carry on past that. Maybe something in the water gives these people such a cheerful disposition.

We’re all hoping that the Olympics will help to shine spotlight the environmental issues in Rio, and that the public attention leads to improved sewage treatment and pollution control, not for us but for the people of Rio.  They deserve better.

As sailors, we need to promote and encourage change that extends far beyond this event.. I will keep coming back to this place as my captivation with the scenery and the strangely pleasant locals only makes me want to see change sooner. I hope each trip down to this gauche city in Brazil will show that steps are being made in the right direction and that it’s not too late.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

December 24th, 2014 by admin

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