RIO DE JANEIRO — Nico Delle Karth, an Austrian sailor preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics, said it was the foulest place he had ever trained.
Garbage bobbed on the surface, everything from car tires to floating mattresses. The water reeked so badly of sewage that he was afraid to put his feet in it to launch his boat from shore.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Mr. Delle Karth said of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympic sailing and windsurfing events will take place.
Even as Brazil scrambles to finish an array of stadiums for the start of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament in less than a month, it is already coming under scathing criticism for its handling of the next mega-event on its plate, the 2016 Summer Games.
Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the influential associationrepresenting various Summer Olympic sports, said the Rio Games were in “the most risky position” of any Olympics he could remember. John D. Coates, an International Olympic Committee vice president, said last month that Rio’s preparations were “the worst I have experienced,” with construction yet to begin on the Deodoro sports complex, the second most important site after Olympic Park.
Guanabara Bay, nestled between Sugarloaf Mountain and other granite peaks, offers the kind of a postcard image Rio’s authorities want to celebrate as hosts of the 2016 Summer Olympics. But it has become a focal point of complaints, turning Rio’s polluted waters into a symbol of frustrations with the troubled preparations for the Olympics.
“Welcome to the dump that is Rio,” Germany’s sailing team said in one typically blunt assessment of the site for the Olympic regatta.
Brazilians training here agree.
“It can get really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water turning brown from sewage contamination,” said Thomas Low-Beer, 24, a Brazilian Olympic hopeful who sails in the bay. He shuddered when recalling how his dinghy crashed into what he believed was a partly submerged sofa, capsizing him into the murky Guanabara.