BARCELONA, Spain — Olympic windsurfers complained Tuesday that they had to train for the Barcelona Games with dead rats, used condoms and garbage floating in the sea.
"When it splashes up on you and you spit it out, you really taste that it's dirty," said Norwegian Per Gunnar Haugen, one of several windsurfers to complain about the water at the Parc de Mar venue, less than three miles from the city center.
"There is everything from seaweed and plastic bags to condoms and sanitary towels. It's awful," said Nikolaos Kaklamankis of Greece. "Greece is bad, but not as bad as this."
A year ago, windsurfers and yachtsmen were appalled by the pollution at Parc de Mar during a pre-Olympic regatta. The International Yacht Racing Union, sailing's governing body, subsequently demanded improvements to clean up the mess.
International Yacht Racing Union technical delegate Henri van der Aat and Parc de Mar director Jaume Guardiola said the water quality was well within European Community safety limits.
They blamed the waste floating in the Mediterranean on recent rains that have pushed garbage down from the hills and into rivers that flow into the sea around Barcelona.
Guardiola said four special garbage vessels were out collecting the solid waste, now floating on the southern edge of the Olympic regatta area, and water samples were being taken daily to test for pollution.
"If it doesn't rain in the next few days, I am sure it will be very clean for the Olympics," Guardiola said. "The water is probably cleaner than ever."
Races start on July 27, two days after the Games open.
Van der Aat said the International Yacht Racing Union was pleased with arrangements. "I don't think they could have done more at this stage," he said. "We have confidence in the organizers."
Some competing teams disagree. "It's no better than last year and probably worse," New Zealand yachting manager Mike Clark said.
He said New Zealander Bruce Kendall, the defending sailboard champion, had spotted five rats and two refrigerators close to shore within a day of arriving.