IOC visits Rio ahead of golf course announcement

Rio de Janeiro is the site of the 2016 Games, where golf will make its return to the Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro is the site of the 2016 Games, where golf will make its return to the Olympics.

RIO DE JANEIRO – With officials from the International Olympic Committee in town today, the most anticipated decision in golf finally appears to be forthcoming.

Organizers of the 2016 Olympics plan to announce Wednesday the designer of the golf course to host the sport’s return to games.

During a three-day visit to Rio, the IOC officials are checking on some of the venues and reviewing the city’s preparations for the first Olympics in South America.

If the planning for the other sports is proceeding like it is in golf, which last was played in the 1904 St. Louis Games, it could be a scramble between now and 2016.

One delay had tumbled into another regarding the disclosure of the winning design bid. Finally, a decision had been expected last month. Then came another postponement. Perhaps the biggest hurdle: the local committee still doesn’t own the 225-acre site that has been identified as the spot for golf. The landowner reportedly has ambitious plans for a surrounding real-estate development and is deeply involved with city leaders in the land planning.

That leaves the eight finalists - Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hanse Golf Design, Hawtree Ltd., Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson-Perret Golf Course Architects, all of whom signed strict confidentiality clauses - left to wonder.

Golf’s return to the games represents a historic opportunity for the winning bid and has attracted interest in the golf world.

Jack Nicklaus is teaming with Annika Sorenstam on his project, while Norman has a partnership with Lorena Ochoa.

The design candidates were invited to Brazil for the announcement Wednesday, but it wasn’t clear whether they would attend.

Six IOC members made the trip to Rio, including commission leader Nawal El Moutawakel and executive director Gilbert Felli. It’s the IOC’s first trip of the year and fifth overall to Rio since the city was picked to host the first Olympics in South America.

The golf selection committee is composed of Rio 2016 Olympic committee president Carlos Nuzman, International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson and other local representatives.

IOC members will be present Wednesday at the site where the course will be built in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will hold most of the Olympic venues.

Golf was reinstated to the games in 2009 and has a spot guaranteed in the 2020 Olympics.

A good impression in Rio will be critical in keeping the sport in the games. Another IOC vote on adding or deleting sports is scheduled for 2017.

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