An aerial photo of the golf course under construction for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro taken on August 22.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A top Olympic official is confident a lawsuit against the city of Rio de Janeiro and a golf course developer will not prevent a test event from taking place before the 2016 games.

"Our understanding today is that we will be ready for the first test event which will be needed to be done for the golf." Gilbert Felli, an IOC-appointed adviser to the Rio organizing committee, told The Associated Press late Tuesday at a meeting of the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

"We are satisfied on the progress we see today," Felli added. "But we are not playing tomorrow. We know that we are going to play for the test event."

Officials of the International Golf Federation, which oversees the games, have acknowledged the schedule will be tight to hold a test event late in 2015 or early in 2016. Any further delays will imperil the test event and again raise the questions about Rio's preparations, which have been severely criticized by several IOC members.

The course has been plagued by slowdowns dating back almost five years. Much of the controversy arises because the course is being built in a nature reserve, situated amid some of the most expensive real estate in suburban Rio; an area known as Barra da Tijuca.

In a hearing last week, judge Eduardo Klausner asked the defendants — the city and the developer — and the public prosecutor to find a way to protect the nature reserve. Construction could be stopped if a compromise isn't reached.

The prosecutor wants some of the holes on the course to be altered, and is asking the developer to return some of the land to the ecological reserve.

It is unclear when Klausner's final ruling will come. He has allowed sodding on the course to continue, which needs to be finished before Rio's summer arrives in December.

Carlos Nuzman, head of the organizing committee and president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, said the matter was in the hands of the city and Mayor Eduardo Paes.

"Golf will be in the Olympics," Nuzman said. "The city if responsible for the golf course."

City officials have declined repeated requests from The Associated Press to visit the course, or speak about their proposed settlement.

A key developer in the golf-course project is Pasquale Mauro, one of the largest landowners in the region. Plans include 160 high-end apartments around the course that are selling for between $2.5 and $7 million. Penthouses are selling for more.

Critics say the development is more about real estate than golf, which is not a major sport in Brazil.

Golf officials have complained the developer has moved too slowly on the project and sped up only after a meeting six months ago with the city, the architect and local organizers.

The Rio area already has the Itanhanga Golf Club, which has been deemed good enough to host tournaments on the European Tour and the LPGA Tour. Club officials were optimistic a few years ago they would land the Olympics but the new course was commissioned instead.

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