Ex-sailing leader says he was fired for opposing competition in Rio’s polluted waters

Guanabara Bay in Brazil

A discarded sofa litters the shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro on June 15.

(Silvia Izquierdo / Associated Press)

It came as a surprise to outsiders when the international sailing federation announced last month that its chief executive, Peter Sowrey, had resigned to “pursue other challenges.”

Now, Sowrey claims he was forced out for trying to shift the sailing venue for the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics away from polluted Guanabara Bay.

“They basically voted me out,” the former leader of World Sailing told the Associated Press. “I didn’t resign. The board finally told me to leave.”

Environmentalists have long voiced concerns about the trash- and sewage-tainted bay where sailors, open-water swimmers and others will compete in August.

The Brazilian government initially pledged to cut pollution by 80% but  backed away from that goal.

Sowrey said he tried to develop an alternate plan for the Games but was “told to gag myself on the subject,” the Associated Press reported.

He departed World Sailing after only five months on the job and was replaced by British sports official Andy Hunt.

“The issue of the water in Rio, you know I’m going to be spending some time over the next couple of weeks really getting my understanding of that,” Hunt said this month.

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