Will New Rio Course be Built in Time for Olympics?

A land dispute puts into question whether the preferred site of the new golf course for the Rio Olympics will be built in time for the 2016 Games. Rio de Janeiro officials confirmed there could be land-ownership issues and that they're "evaluating the measures it will take," according to The Associated Press.

The course is slated to be built in Rio's Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, a place known for ownership disputes. A decision on who owns the site could take months or several years, according to the AP, a timetable that would jeopardize the project and might mean that another site would need to be secured for the new course.

Pennsylvania-based architect Gil Hanse was selected over several well-known parties to design the new course for the sport, which after much lobbying by various golf entities, was added to the Olympics for the first time since the 1904 St. Louis Games.

"If it was important, they would probably bring it up," Hanse told AP reporter Tales Azzoni. "We've been selected to do that particular job and we feel comfortable with the time frame that we have."

But Hanse acknowledged that a site change would definitely alter the development period as well as the new course itself. "If they decided for whatever reason to make changes, you would have to start all over again," he told Azzoni. "Our design is specifically for that site. You can't just put it someplace else."

A company called Elmway Participacoes is disputing the land ownership, and the issue will be resolved by Brazil's Higher Court of Justice. The company's attorney, Sergio Antunes Lima Jr., told Azzoni that there is "more than enough" evidence that proves the property belongs to his client.

It's possible the city's Olympic organizers and Elmway Participacoes can work out an agreement and the project will stay on track. "My client can do whatever he wants with the land, I don't think it ever crossed his mind to build a golf course there," Lima Jr. said. "Maybe he will want to negotiate with the city, but we don't know yet."

The International Golf Federation hoped that course construction would start around October of 2012, which would enable it be ready to host "test" events in early 2015. IGF Vice President Ty Votaw said the federation wouldn't comment on the dispute because it was a city matter.

For more background on the 2016 Rio Olympics golf course project, visit http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/gil_hanse_amy_alcott_selected_to_design_olympic_course, http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/selection_of_rio_olympic_course_designer_delayed_again, http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/eight_finalists_for_rio_olympics_course, and http://www.cybergolf.com/golf_news/hanse_selection_a_good_call.