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Brazilian Judge Allows Olympic Golf Course Construction to Proceed

11 Dec, 2014

By: Tracey Schelmetic
Latest Round in Long-Running Battle Between Environmental Activists, Developers

Environmental activists and developers (oh, and golf enthusiasts) are unlikely to ever be great friends. In Rio de Janeiro, which is currently preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the two sides are aligned against one another in a legal battle. Construction on the course, which is 60 to 70 percent finished and will be noteworthy because it will see golf played as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904, has been repeatedly halted due to court actions filed by a city prosecutor who has cited concerns about the course’s fallout on the city’s environmental assets. A judge recently ruled against the prosecutor to allow the construction to continue.

Judge Eduardo Antonio Klausner said in his decision there is "no new fact justifying ... a halt in the implementation of the golf course for the Olympics."

“Prosecutors have been trying for months to derail the project, ranging from demands several holes of the previously approved design be changed to this latest request seeking a total shutdown of construction,” according to Yahoo Sports. The prosecutors have charged that the golf course’s design violates Brazil’s environmental laws.

Environmentalists often oppose the construction or expansion of golf courses for a number of reasons. They dislike the use of pesticides and fertilizers and charge that these chemicals enter area water tables, and charge that the courses destroy natural wildlife habitats and wet lands, and alter water runoff patterns. Golf courses also use enormous amounts of energy and water in greens maintenance, and can be of particular concern in areas where water shortages are common.

Developers of the Olympic golf course – which is essentially in downtown Rio de Janeiro --  have already made concessions to environmental concerns, agreeing to relocate the course's 12th hole in order to avoid a small "wildlife corridor" known for plant and wildlife habitats in the city. The course was designed by Gil Hanse, an American golf course designer who won the competition to create the Olympic course. Hanse, principal of the Larkin Group, was chose as Golf Magazine’s 2009 “Golf Course Architect of the Year.”

According to NBC News, an Olympic golf test event was originally hoped to be played one year before the Olympics but is now slated for late 2015 or early 2016. To date, all but two fairways have been completed. Once the course is fully completed, it needs some time to “grow in” and attain its finished look. 

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