Dispute about Olympic golf course site drags on

TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer

SAO PAULO -- Construction of the Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro has yet to start as planned, and a ruling by a local court could lengthen the delay even further.

The company disputing the ownership of the land where the course will be built has won a legal battle, and said Thursday that it has asked a judge to block construction on the area. Local Olympic organizers and city officials say they aren't worried and that the decision won't keep them from starting the construction, which is awaiting final details.

Brazil's Higher Court of Justice ruled last week that a Rio tribunal was wrong in denying an appeal by the company, Elmway Participacoes, meaning the case will likely drag on for several more months. The lower court will basically have to accept the company's request to send the case to a higher court, which will analyze the case from the beginning.

The International Golf Federation said earlier this year that the initial plan was to start construction this month, but it says a possible delay wouldn't significantly disrupt preparations for test events planned for 2015.

"Construction hasn't started but that is not to say that work hasn't been done," IGF Vice President Ty Votaw told The Associated Press. "Work has begun on a number of fronts, including the course design and the clubhouse project. A number of things have already been done behind the scenes."

Rio will host the first Olympic golf tournament in more than 110 years.

Local organizers downplayed the legal setback.

"Rio 2016 is confident that all deadlines for the golf course construction will be met," the local organizing committee said in a statement Thursday.

The city said the current land owner, entrepreneur Pasquale Mauro, has provided all the necessary documents showing he holds the right for the area where the course will be built.

Votaw said the land dispute is "not a concern at this time," and reiterated that the federation has been reassured by 2016 organizers that all issues are close to being resolved.

"There are some final discussions between the land owner and the organizing committee, and the mayor's office that are just being finalized," Votaw said. "We are working closely with Rio 2016 and the land owner to resolve the issues that need to be resolved so we could move forward."

Votaw acknowledges there is a need to make planning changes for every day that goes by without construction starting, but said it doesn't mean that current delays will affect the final project or the test events.

"There is some flexibility," Votaw said. "We could be ready as early as March of 2015 or as late as August of 2015. You could have the test events in 2016 as well."

American designer Gil Hanse would not comment on the timetable for construction, but has said in the past he expected work to begin around October. Hanse said any change in the course's location would force significant changes to the design project.


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