SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 59

the globe, a stressed infrastructure, the excitement and energy of such a major sporting event, and the worry of whether or not the police force will be able to keep everyone safe, the environment unfortunately is not at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We learned this the hard way in April in Miami Beach after anunsanctioned event called Floatopia took the city by surprise, resulting in some seriously intimidating traffic jams, spikes in crime, and trash heaps.

Early in the week a woman who had lived in Rio her entire life informed of Rio having already

failed to deliver on its environmental promise of “Green Games for a Blue Planet”. She told me that sanitation was neglected for decades due to an intense population growth and a lack of attention from the local government. After some very light internet searching later in the week, I was shocked to learn just how polluted the

Guanabara Bay was as it is a site that has been used as disposal for untreated sewage, industrial waste, and any kind of trash you can imagine for decades. While Rio promised to significantly improve the water quality of Guanabara Bay in its bid to host the Olympics, little progress has been made. Numerous reports highlight the poor quality of the water and the incredibly high levels of disease-causing bacteria and viruses in the Bay which is to be used for sailing and other Olympic events. You don’t have to be an expert in microbiology or marine science to know that the word “nasty” is the most politically correct way of describing this situation. I was thankful the weather was chilly and the waters near Rio were too cold for my taste, that way I wouldn’t be tempted to dive in.

Having seen Rio for myself and taken the time to experience it all first hand I realized the severity of the situation: Rio has the potential to be a world-class city, they just need a government that can handle the responsibility and to ask for help when they need it instead of sweeping issues under the rug and pretending everything is fine. If the Brazilian government created a supportive society that could execute on its promises, the environmental issues inherently associated with the Olympics and the pre-existing issues such as the poor quality of the Guanabara Bay could receive the full attention they needed. Even though it’s past the point of no-return for the 2016 Olympic Games, and the odds certainly are high that the games will be filled with minor snafus, it’s important to be supportive. Rio is doing what they can with what they have and, honestly, that’s not much right now. When the dust has settled and the Olympic Village has been converted to condos, I encourage anyone and everyone to head to Rio as a way to support the city, to experience the vibrant culture and stunning aesthetics of the city, and to see just why so many people have fallen in love with Rio de Janeiro. I have every confidence that with one visit, you’ll be saying “I love you, Rio” just like I did.

For now, all I can do is say that I’m rooting for Rio. I think we’re all rooting for Rio.

Marcus is a former marine mammal trainer. He is now pursuing a graduate degree from the University of Miami in marine conservation with focuses in marine mammal conservation and management as well as science communications. In addition to conservation and outreach, Marcus is also passionate about travel, pizza, and the Real Housewives.