The Continuing Saga of Rio Olympic Golf
I touch base with the 2016 Olympics from time to time, largely out of necessity, because we really don’t know yet if Olympic golf is going to cross the finish line in time for the games. When we first looked in on Olympic progress, the course was a patch of nondescript land. Months later, when it was supposed to begin looking like a golf course, it looked like a slightly altered brown patch of land, more like the preparations for a giant housing development or fracking operation.
Then we learned that the course was on an environmentally protected area, and I had to wonder why it had already been torn up to such an extent, that being the case. Not long after, an owner issue developed over permission to use the ground at all, and it appeared for a while that golf in the next Olympics was to be strangled in a never-ending court battle. Eventually, requests were made to the national court to make extensive revisions to the course plans, and to create natural protection corridors of over a hundred feet in width. However, the same prosecutors were of a later mind to have the establishment of an Olympic course eliminated entirely. This week, the judge, Eduardo Antonio Klausner nixed the requests, indicating that construction would go forward, as there were no new and relevant facts that would support dropping the project.
Construction workers on the course have greeted many mornings not knowing whether they were going out plant or pull up the turf, and it is said the course is presently 70% complete. I’ll accept that fact for the moment, but it still looks a muddy housing development to me. More than likely, things green up pretty quickly in that part of the world, so it should look very different in a few months.
One sticking point for the Olympic Committee was that the course be completed in time for a test event to be held on the finished product, as is done with every other event. Calendar-wise, that still looks iffy to me, but they say it will happen. For a sport that has been absent from the Olympics since the beginning of the twentieth century, some are taking a rather loose approach to making sure that it happens after all.
Environmentalism around the golf world has had its successes and failures, but a new generation of designers and managers are learning, and adding the environment to their list of priorities, some out of legal mandates, and others out of conscience. It is hard for me to know, as a non-expert, precisely what the effects would be, and if they go ahead, how permanent. I am also unaware of future plans for the course. Will it revert to its natural state, 100% returned to the care of local wildlife? And, of course, I must mention those caymans in the bunkers and ponds…what about them? Just saying…
On the business side, what sort of side effects would the golf and general Olympic world experience from cancelling the event, including changes of personal schedule, investment, tourism, and the national embarrassment factor? Bearing in mind that thirty countries will participate in 2016, inquiring minds want to know. It’s all a tricky question. Golf, when poorly planned, can be intrusive, but it doesn’t need to be that way. On the other hand, it is extremely inclusive to human families and cultures. I’m sure that there’s a satisfying answer here, if all parties concerned are willing to search for it, rather than cling to petrified positions. Meanwhile, more updates are forthcoming, to see if golf breaks the Olympic tape at last