The Brazilian golf course that will host the 2016 Olympic golf tournaments is now done and is growing in, designer Gil Hanse told Golf Channel on Monday.
However, after all it took — including land-ownership disputes and environmental lawsuits challenging the course design — to get the course shaped, seeded and growing, Hanse isn’t expecting the trouble to stop here.
“The project has obviously had a lot of setbacks here and there along the way, so I can’t expect that it’s going to be completely smooth going forward,” Hanse said. “But we’re all enthused. The design is intact. They didn’t ask us to make any changes, so we’re proud of what’s being built.”
Hanse was alluding to a new movement by a group of Brazilian protesters demonstrating their opposition to the course and its potential impact on the environment. Dubbing themselves Occupa Golfe (“Occupy Golf”), the group set up shop on a highway median on a road passing by the course in the Barra de Tijuca suburb, according to the Washington Post. On January 6, Municipal Guards, an unarmed Rio police force, arrived to dismantle a makeshift shelter constructed by the protesters. The group posted a video to its Facebook page of what it says was police brutality against protester Elson Soares Jr., who said he was struck in the groin several times by a female officer.
The protesters agree with Brazilian prosecutors who sued the city and the course’s land developer, claiming the course’s construction violates the country’s environmental laws and damages several protected plant and animal species. That suit is now in limbo, with the developers refusing to change the now-finished design. Olympic organizers and city officials say the city will construct a new park as an exchange for the 14 acres taken from a city ecological park to construct the course.
The golf course has become yet another target for demonstrators who were initially spurred on by a 2013 proposed increase in bus fares. Hundreds of thousands, many suffering as the Brazilian economy stagnates, protested double-digit-percent increases in the fares, creating a tense atmosphere in the nation’s biggest cities. The police response to the protests did them no favors. In the end, the proposed increases were delayed a year, but have now taken effect, spurring a new round of unrest.