Golf architect Gil Hanse, having returned to the U.S. recently from a visit to Rio de Janeiro, expects to be moving to Brazil with his family in January to start work on a layout for the 2016 Olympics Games.
“I’ve got my head down, and I keep moving forward,” said Hanse, who visited Rio with his wife and daughter to finalize plans to establish a home there while he builds the course. Construction of the layout should take 10-14 months, he said, plus another six to eight months for grow-in. All told, that’s two years from start to finish, with an anticipated opening of mid-2015, in time to hold a demonstration event one year before the 2016 Games.
To get there, however, some hurdles regarding the proposed 225-acre site remain.
Rio’s newly re-elected mayor, Eduardo Paes, has taken the local lead on the project on behalf of the Rio 2016 Committee running the games. To build the golf course, he has to negotiate a land swap that would free the intended parcel, southwest of downtown and set back a quarter-mile from the Atlantic Ocean, from a much larger environmental-conservation zone. The proposal is opposed by environmentalists, who insist on holding Paes and the committee to their claim of the Rio Games being run on a strong ecological foundation.
“It is a complete contradiction,” Rio councilwoman Andrea Gouvea Vieira told The Rio Times newspaper, “wanting to change environmental law, and, at the same time, promoting the idea that we intend to promote a sustainable Olympic Games.”
Environmental politics are only part of the issue with the site. There’s another, separate legal controversy regarding ownership of the parcel itself that’s wending its way through the Brazilian courts.
The current agreement to build the golf course includes local real estate developer Pasquale Mauro, who actually would pay for construction of the golf course. In exchange, he has been assured of zoning variances on his apartment building that borders part of the property. But his title to the parcel designated for golf has been challenged by a company, Elmway Participacoes, that claims it plans to develop the site for commercial and residential real estate.
Olympic organizers are intent on moving ahead with course construction, even as the Brazilian Higher Court of Justice has affirmed Elmway’s standing to appeal a lower court’s decision that went against the company. That appeal could take months or years to be settled.
By which time, Hanse hopes, work on the golf course will be well under way.