Golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 faces another speed bump. A Brazilian course proposed changes on Wednesday to the Gil Hanse-designed course — even while under construction — to address environmental concerns.
Judge Eduardo Klausner heard a lawsuit brought against the city of Rio de Janeiro and the course’s developer under the auspices that the course’s construction was decimating protected land in violation of the country’s environmental laws. Klausner heard arguments from both sides for approximately two hours, according to the Associated Press, before proposing a compromise to maximize the protection of nature reserves while allowing construction to finish.
“It is in society’s interests that the Olympics take place and it’s also in society’s interests that the environment be preserved,” Klausner said. “What has to be observed is legality, and within legality is respect for the environment.”
The details of the compromise are unclear. The course’s developers claim any changes to the design this late in construction could prove catastrophic for the course’s aesthetic or simply impossible to implement. The environmental groups that brought the suit believe otherwise.
The developers have until Sept. 17 to return to court and respond to the proposed compromise.
Golf is slated to return to the Olympics in Rio after a 112-year absence, but the course development process has been a nightmare of delays and lawsuits. Ultimately, the new course is expected to host a test event in 2015, but only after the course is completed and with a very short window to grow in grass.
The International Golf Federation, which represents the sport in front of the International Olympic Committee, said in July it has contingency plans in place but did not delve into them or what scenarios they might cover.