Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

A sofa is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I was born in this area when it was still called Guanabara, before it was renamed Rio de Janeiro state in 1975. I still miss that old name, which was a reference to our beautiful but now polluted bay.

A toy is seen at Pombeba island in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I hope to see these waters cleaned up before the 2016 Olympic Games, when the sailing events will be held here. But after spending a couple of days seeing how dirty the bay has become, it will be a massive job. I pray that a piece of floating debris will not hit a boat during the sailing competition, or a stray plastic bag will not affect the outcome of who stands on the podium and who doesn’t!

Old ships are seen at the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

As I photographed Guanabara Bay, I thought back to my time covering the sailing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The biggest concern there was sharks – nothing compared to the problems that sewage could cause for our Games if it’s not cleaned up in time.