Rio needs lasting Olympic golf venue

The Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Let’s hope the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro produces golf courses accessible to all.

I fear it won’t.

You can imagine the scrambling that has been going on among golf architects and developers when the news hit that Rio was going to host the Olympics. I’m sure the frenzy got even more intense when IOC members gave golf the green light Friday to be included in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Rio isn’t exactly blessed with great golf courses, unlike Chicago, Madrid or even Tokyo (the other rival cities for the 2016 Games). As Golfweek senior writer Brad Klein pointed out, Rio only has two 18-hole courses. They do not exactly rival the bevy of beauties Chicago could have used to stage the first Olympic Golf competition in over a century.

Yes, there are other regions of the country with courses that could stage the competition but, as Peter Dawson said Friday, the preference is for golfers to be included in the athletes’ village. He certainly is expecting to stage the competition in the Rio area.

Dawson and representatives of the International Golf Federation will have to liaise with the organizing committee to find a site at which the competition can take place.

It could mean the construction of not one course, but two. Nothing has been set in stone, but it’s conceivable that the men’s and women’s competitions could be held on two different courses.

As you can imagine, every golf course architect worth his or her salt will be tripping over themselves to try and build the first Olympic golf course. Imagine the plaudits that would go with that project.

I have two suggestions for Rio’s organizing committee and the IGF:

  • If possible, give the work to a South American architect
  • Make sure the course(s) leave a lasting legacy that many Brazilians can share in.

The Olympics are supposed to be about fostering goodwill through sport. One way to create ill will would be to hand the golf course design to a foreign architect without exploring the possibilities of using a South American designer.

Imagine how U.S. architects would have felt if the Games had been staged in Chicago and the job of designing an Olympic golf venue had been handed to Johnny foreigner.

More importantly, though, the venue should be accessible to all Brazilians for years to come. The last thing we’d want to see is the 2016 Olympic golf course become a high-end facility that only the wealthy elite can afford.

There are too many of those in the world as it is.

The Olympic Games should leave a lasting legacy that inspires future generations. Ideally, the 2016 Olympic golf venue would become a training ground for future Brazilian champions.

Leave the golf course to the people and make sure it is accessible to all.

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