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Good as Gold: Olympic Golf Venue Nearing Completion

6 May, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic
After Years of Legal and Environmental Hurdles, Rio Olympic Course Ready to Host

The path to hosting Olympic golf in Rio in 2016 has been a challenging course, at best. The location, design and construction of the golf facility in downtown Rio has been fraught with problems, gleefully reported upon at every turn by media, environmental experts and others. But now, as the venue nears completion, and with golf returning to the Summer Olympic Games for the first time since 1904, supporters are hoping the venue at Reserva de Marapendi will be the catalyst for rejuvenating the flagging sport.

The venue has been purpose-built for the Games to a custom design by world-famous course designer Gil Hanse, and land ownership and environmental issues, including lawsuits, have caused a series of years-long headaches for Brazilian Olympic officials. Work officially began on the course in March of 2013, with hundreds of workers swarming the site to prepare it for clearing, rough shaping, transplanting and earth moving. Lawsuits filed by prosecutors in 2014 stalled the process however, until a Brazilian high court judge cleared the way for work to proceed in December of last year.

The course, cleared of legal hurdles, is now nearly finished. Hanse recently told Reuters that the struggles to bring the course to fruition are over and only the last touches remain on the as yet unnamed course.

"I think we're clear. We're finished," he said.

Hanse noted that this course will be very important to the future of golf, as people around the world tend to watch sports they are unfamiliar with during Olympic Games, even if they never tune in to watch at other times.

"I hate figure skating. I don't ever watch it. But every four years I watch figure skating because it's in the Olympics," he said to members of the press at a recent Architectural Symposium at the U.S. Golf Association headquarters. "So people who have never watched golf, because it's an Olympic sport will tune in.”

The course, which is in the Baja area of Rio and close to the ocean, is unusual in that it has no cart paths. Hanse said this was deliberate as the course will be widely filmed from the air and the designer didn’t want “scars” to mar the course’s “spectacular” aerial vantages. The course is expected to host a test event late in 2015 during the Brazilian summer.

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