Judge's ruling adds another odd chapter to Rio 2016
The Rio 2016 soap opera took another strange twist this week when a Brazilian judge ruled that no more ground could be broken at the site of the Olympic golf course.
The irony is that course construction was completed months ago. Recent work at the Gil Hanse-designed layout, which will herald golf's return to the Summer Games after a 112-year absence, has been focused on grassing the course. Ten holes have been grassed, and five more are scheduled to be sown when Hanse makes another site visit next week.
When contacted by Golfweek, Hanse would not comment. Ty Votaw, a PGA Tour executive and vice president of the International Golf Federation, also would not comment.
Judge Eduardo Klausner, who is presiding over a lawsuit brought against the city and the developer, scheduled a Sept. 17 hearing to try to resolve the dispute.
The Olympic course has been fraught with problems regarding permitting, construction and environmental issues at the 240-acre tract in the Marapendi Municipal Reserve in Rio de Janeiro's Barra da Tijuca district.
Perhaps the oddest twist to this tale is that the course was approved in 2012 when Rio's city council passed an ordinance that allowed the area to be used as a golf course, and city government then granted the appropriate permits. Yet a public prosecutor who works for the city is bringing the lawsuit on property that many observers say has served no environmental purpose.
The Associated Press reported that the judge's proposal would need to move the golf course away from a lagoon on the property's south side and toward a multi-lane highway on the north. By shifting the course northward, a 400-yard-wide green corridor could be opened.
However, given that course construction has been completed, short of the few remaining holes to be grassed and any aesthetic improvements, such a design change would be all but impossible.
“It is in society's interests that the Olympics take place," Klausner said, "and it's also in society's interests that the environment be preserved. What has to be observed is legality, and within legality is respect for the environment."
The Sept. 17 hearing will be just another unusual chapter in golf's return to the Olympics, and it may or may not provide the clarity needed. But according to the court, the grassing will continue. What might come next is anything but certain.