NOTE: If the video above does not play on your device, click here.
As Outside the Lines reporter Tom Farrey says in the voice-over for the clip above, Rio De Janeiro has some of the most beautiful water settings anywhere. However, Farrey continues, “. . . each day a reported 100 tons of garbage gets dumped into the [Guanabara] bay [in southeast Brazil].”
With the Summer Olympics in Rio approaching and concerns over the polluted waters making international headlines, OTL sent Farrey, ESPN.com reporter Bonnie Ford, producer Justine Gubar and a production crew for a week-long visit to Rio earlier this year. ESPN.com deputy editor Joy Russo contributed from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters. Both Gubar (2006) and Ford (2001) are former Knight Fellows at Stanford University – even renting the same Palo Alto, Calif., house during their respective stays.
“Our goal is to be in lockstep with the Outside the Lines crew and all of our Digital and Print/International departments (Edit, Social, Video, Fact Check, Design, Photo, VOD, etc.) from the get-go, to share reporting, resources and information and make sure everyone has what they need to tell the most well-rounded story across all platforms and handles,” Russo says. “I think we accomplished that with this Rio Water feature.”
The result is exactly that and more. (Sunday’s OTL airs 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.)
“The goal was to videotape raw sewage and trash in waters we knew were riddled with bacteria and viruses,” Gubar says. “We travelled to Rio loaded with supplies including masks, rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, antibiotics and rubber boots.
“You literally gag from the smell of untreated sewage at places like the sewage treatment facility and in the actual sailing venue,” she says. “It isn’t easy to ignore.”
“The bottom line is,” Russo says, “this problem existed long before Rio got the bid, and it’s going to continue to exist long after the Games end on Aug. 21. The people of Rio and Brazil live with this daily.”
That daily existence was not lost on Gubar.
“I think the visual contrast of the beauty of the waters of Rio to the sewage and trash stands out,” Gubar says. “I returned home from Rio thankful for my municipal sewage connection and weekly trash and recycling pickups. It’s easy to take things for granted until you are reminded that not everybody is fortunate to live that way.”