An aerial view of the Olympic golf course in the Barra da Tijuca suburb of Rio de Janeiro.
Hanse Golf Design
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SAO PAULO -- A Rio de Janeiro judge has rejected prosecutors' request to halt construction at the Olympic golf course, clearing a major hurdle in the sport's return to the games after a 112-year absence.

It was the second-consecutive legal defeat by prosecutors who claim the course is being built without the necessary environmental impact studies and other legal requirements.

Another judge had previously ordered changes to the course's layout to attend to the environmental concerns, but also denied the request to put construction on hold. A work stoppage at this point could keep the course from being completed in time for the games.

The local Olympic organizing committee has scheduled the first golf test event for November.

The judge's decision was published on Tuesday, 500 days before the 2016 Rio games begin.

Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they would appeal again, although this was considered their last chance to stop the construction before work becomes too advanced.

In his ruling, judge Fabio Dutra said the matter is "highly complex" and needs to be further evaluated, but conceded that at least some of the environmental concerns were taken into consideration. He noted that course's construction was already in an advanced stage, and mentioned the importance of the Olympics to the city.

"If after the course is finalized there is proof that there was a breach of environmental norms, the necessary actions against those responsible can still be taken," the judge said.

Prosecutors alleged that the environmental licensing process for the course was riddled with errors and wanted developers to significantly redesign the course to attend to their demands. They said the environment had to be the primary concern, not the Olympics.

The course has been marred by legal battles that overshadowed the sport's much-anticipated return to the Olympics.

There was a dispute over the land owner, and even Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes was facing an inquiry into alleged misconduct linked to the course's construction. The environmental group Golf For Whom contends the city has harmed taxpayers by allowing a private developer to build the course at what is expected to be a massive financial gain through the sale of luxury residential towers.

Paes recently said he "hated" having to build a new golf course for the games. This week he said he will soon release a dossier to the population explaining everything about the project.

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