Two years away: Update on golf in Olympics
August 05, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Construction on the Olympic course in Rio has been put on an accelerated path. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Two years from now, on Aug. 5, 2016, the Summer Olympics will begin in Rio de Janeiro. Consequently, that means two years from now, golf will finally return to the Olympics after a 112-year absence, with separate 60-player events held for men and women.
It also means that the organizers in Rio, along with golf course designer Gil Hanse, have two years to complete the Olympic course at Venue Reserva de Marapendi after battling unforseen delays.
Construction on the course has been on an accelerated path in recent months.
Ty Votaw, vice president of the International Golf Federation, said two weeks ago prior to The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool that sodding has begun and the development is moving into a "grow-in phase." The plan is to sod nine holes and sprig the remaining nine, with the potential for sodding those, as well.
Toward that end, the irrigation system has been fully installed on seven holes and partially installed on five more. If all goes as planned, the course will be grassed in by the end of October, which would allow two complete growing seasons prior to the 2016 Olympic Games.
"While it's taken us much longer for us to get to this point in time than we would have anticipated or would have liked and there have been frustration along the way, ultimately we're now at a place where we think over the past several months there's been significant progress made," Votaw said.
At the same time, Votaw cautioned, the developer holds the keys to the continued success of the project. The company must continue to devote equipment, manpower and other resources to keep the construction of the Hanse design on schedule.
"The IGF's role, all along, has been that of simply approving the venue for our competition," Votaw said. "We don't exert an enormous amount of control, any amount of control, only influence, in making sure that the delivery of the venue is one that meets the standards of our sport and of a competition at this level with the athletes involved.
"As I said, we're encouraged with the progress to date."
Golf and the 2016 Olympics
Several of the holes on the front nine have been completed, according to Votaw, and final shaping of the fairways, greens, tees and bunkers is on-going. Hanse returned to Brazil recently and was expected to finalize six more greens.
"From all accounts, from everyone who has seen the routing, the design, the rough shaping and the piece of land we have to work with, those who have seen it and those who know what they're talking about feel this golf course has the potential to be very special, perhaps one of, if not the most, iconic venues of the 2016 Games," Votaw said.
"But again that potential can only be realized if the resources, manpower, equipment and attention to detail that's necessary are brought to the project every day from this point forward by Rio 2016, and the landowner/developer."
Votaw said that a test event, involving either professionals or elite amateurs, would be held prior to the 2016 Games. Such an event would allow officials not only to evaluate the course but to test the scoring system, transportation routes and other logistics.
A contingency plan is in effect should the course not be completed in time for the Games. At the same time, though, Votaw said there has been "exponential growth" in the construction acitivities since a March meeting with the stakeholders, and he feels meeting the schedule is achievable.
"All I can say is that progress has been doing that recently," Votaw said, gesturing upwards with both hands. "It's much faster now per month than it was a year ago, and it's accelerating. But there's no complacency there, it's tight."