Rio fails to show Olympic golf course contracts


By Tales Azzoni

SAO PAULO (AP) — The ownership dispute over the land set to be used for the Olympic golf course for 2016 took another twist Friday when a court ordered the city of Rio de Janeiro to hand over the contracts it allegedly signed with the owner of the property — and city officials said no such documents existed.

A Brazilian court issued a search warrant for the contracts on behalf of a company claiming ownership of the property, saying it had the right to see the documents related to the land.

The city, which claims another person owns the land, said it hasn’t signed any contracts for the golf course because it will be a private undertaking. It had publicly announced earlier this year, however, that it made an agreement with the owner to have the course built on the land. It said it would alter some of the building requirements in the area, and in exchange the land owner and a construction company would pay for the $30 million course.

"The golf course is an undertaking exclusively private, which will be developed by the Rio 2016 Committee," the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Local Olympic organisers said they expect the contracts for the golf course to be finalised by the end of June, and that the city would not be directly involved even though it was responsible for choosing the land and facilitating the agreement.

The contracts for the golf course will involve the Rio 2016 committee, an association which will run the course, the construction company and the developer who says he currently owns the land.

That land decision is in the hands of Brazil’s Higher Court of Justice, and a final ruling could take months or even years. Still, the city says it has no plan B for the golf course and has not looked at alternatives for where to build the course, which will be the first in more than 100 years to host an Olympic golf tournament.

The International Golf Federation recently said construction on the course is expected to start around October, and the goal is to have it ready for test events in the beginning of 2015.

But the lawyer for the company disputing the ownership of the land, Elmway Participacoes, said Friday he wants to suspend any activity until a decision on the property is made. Sergio Antunes Lima Jr. said the city doesn’t have the right to make any deals to build on the land before a judge decides who owns it.

American designer Gil Hanse, who was picked to build the course, recently acknowledged that his project was based entirely on the land under dispute and that any changes now would force him to start from scratch.

The city recently told The Associated Press that it was "evaluating the measures it will take" regarding the land dispute.

Elmway Participacoes has been trying to claim ownership of the land for the past three years. The other alleged owner, entrepreneur Pasquale Mauro, has several properties in the region and has won many similar disputes.

The city has said before that it was satisfied with Pasquale’s proof of ownership and that he had all the needed documents over the land.

Elmway initially won a court battle that was later reversed. The situation means a judge could at any time rule that work has to be halted on the land until a final decision on the ownership is reached.

Golf made its debut at the second modern Olympics in Paris in 1900 but was removed after the 1904 St. Louis Games. It was reinstated in a vote by the International Olympic Committee in 2009 and has a spot guaranteed in 2020, but a good impression in Rio will be critical in keeping the sport in the games beyond that. Another IOC vote on adding or deleting sports is scheduled for 2017.

Local organisers had considered using existing golf courses in Rio, but eventually decided to build a new one because the renovation projects would likely be too complex and expensive. The Rio 2016 committee wants the venue to become a legacy to the city and serve as a tool for bettering youngsters through sports. It will be used as a public facility after the 2016 Games.

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