I’m not the first, nor will be the last to make this call:
- Leading and well considered Sailing Magazine writer Chris Caswell in the October 1, 2014 issue wrote “if the Brazilians won’t change the venue, then boycott the event.“
- On December 12, 2014 the world’s largest sailing website, Sailing Anarchy wrote, “We still cannot for the life of us understand what is going through ISAF, the IOC, and the dozens of governing bodies’ minds when it comes to the dangerous levels of pollution”.
- On December 17, 2014 in Scuttlebutt Sailing News, Bob Fisher longtime respected sailing journalist wrote “When will anyone make the decision to move the Olympic sailing to a safe site? It MUST happen.“
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.
Moving the competitors boats and race officials boats and equipment is a simple matter of trucking. Problem solved.
Housing spectators and the media would be left to the new venue. Of course communications is important, assuring adequate internet bandwidth to support the influx of people and the media’s needs. Bus the athletes back and forth from the sailing venue to Rio as needed. Let commercial buses move spectators and media back and forth. It’s not like a stadium has to be moved or erected, this is just way too simple. Commerce will solve this.
WHAT IS GAINED MOVING TO A NEW VENUE?
In Brazil that does not treat its sewage water in the major city of Rio, moving to a new venue does not guarantee pristine water. It has to be assumed that a new venue dumps its raw sewage into the ocean everywhere in Brazil. The difference between Rio and coastal towns is, that Rio’s pollution is contained in a bay of brackish water (fresh and saltwater mix) where the pollution is held and not flushed away. Whereas a coastal town with an open oceanfront will have currents carrying the sewage away, and with tides mixing the pollution with a great volume of clean water, or as one person put it to me, “The solution to pollution is dilution.”
Sailing would be portrayed with clean beaches, with people playing in the water, with blue water, rather than brown smelly water, and media describing sailing in a positive environmentally friendly way.
No one can predict the weather this far in advance of the 2016 Olympics/Paralympics. Reports have stated that in heavy rains the sewage filled rivers get flushed into Guanabara Bay causing pollution levels to increase substantially. This can be avoided entirely in a new venue.
The media can focus on the action of sailboat racing, get quotes on strategies, what worked today, what didn’t work today, rather than spending any time focusing on what the pollution was like today.
WHAT IS LOST MOVING TO A NEW VENUE?
For those Member National Authorities who have had their athletes practice intensely for years in Guanabara Bay, uprooting to a new venue causes a lot of knowledge to be left behind, and have to scramble to gather new knowledge and data on winds, currents and tidal effects on the racing courses.
The Rio Organizing Committee has insisted on Guanabara Bay so that all sports are competing within the City of Rio. They do not want to have sports playing away from their city.
A marina was built for the Olympics/Paralympics in Rio, with a little over a year to go, spending the money to build a second marina elsewhere isn’t budgeted. All good planners would have a contingency fund in their budget, and it is expected Rio Organizing Committee would have such contingency funds. As all boats today are launched off ramps, no longer are cranes needed, making ramps is a relatively quick construction.
WHAT WOULD BE A NEUTRAL EFFECT OF MOVING THE VENUE?
A venue move at this time would be fair to all teams from around the world. All of the local condition knowledge gained in Guanabara Bay would be lost. And everyone would be starting with a clean sheet of paper for local knowledge in the new venue.
It is not impossible to move the venue at this time. The Rio Organizing Committee with support from the IOC, ISAF and MNA’s can change the future of how sailing is portrayed to the public. Sailing is a clean, environmentally friendly, athletic sport that deserves a clean field of play, just as all other sports in the Olympics deserves.
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