Rio delivers controversial golf course for Olympics

Rio de Janeiro, Nov 23 (IANS) Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has formally handed over a newly-constructed golf course, one of the most controversial projects in the preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, to the Olympic Organising Committee.

The 18-hole course covering about a square kilometre (a little over 1/3 square mile) was taken over by the organising committee for the Games on Sunday until the Olympic Gamwes are over, when its management will be transferred for the next 20 years to a public entity that will promote projects that “push the sport in Brazil and South America”, the mayor’s office said, reports Efe.

This is the world’s first Olympic golf course in 112 years and it has been a controversial project since it was built at a cost of 60 million reais ($16 million) by a private firm on a land that had been part of a nature preserve but which was cleared to accommodate the fairways and greens.

The firm that owns the land received — in exchange for giving up management of the course for 20 years — the right to build 22 luxury buildings, each one having 22 floors, around the facility.

The course was built in the exclusive neighbourhood of Barra de Tijuca, where part of the Marapendi lagoon is located, whose mangroves are part of a nature preserve, and just a short distance from one of the most popular beaches in Rio. The area had not been urbanised because of prior municipal restrictions on protecting the local environment.

Municipal legislation had limited buildings erected in the area to six floors and restricted the construction area to protect the mangroves. But the Mayor’s office agreed to change the regulations to give the private company an incentive to allow the new gold course to be built after claiming that the two existing golf courses in Barra de Tijuca did not meet the specifications of the International Olympic Committee.

The course was built by the United States firm Hanse Golf Course Design, owned by Gil Hansen, considered to be the world’s main builder and developer of golf courses.

The last time that golf enjoyed Olympic status was during the St. Louis Games in 1904.

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