The Olympic golf course might be out of the courts, but it’s not out of the woods.
As protests against the construction of the course in an environmentally sensitive area of Rio continue to mount, Eduardo Paes, the city’s mayor, told Bloomberg’s David Biller that the project was a necessary evil.
“There are some things that you need to do to get the Olympics, things that you would never do, and I would never do a golf course,” he said.
Appealing to critics who call golf an elitist game, Paes suggested that the course, which will become the city’s first public golf course after the 2016 Games, could be a tourism boon to the city, even as he sought to distance himself from the populist sentiment against it.
“Come on, you rich guy from England, you rich guy from America, come! Don’t go to Phoenix. It’s too hot, it’s dry. Come to Rio and play golf here,” Paes said. “It just could be a high, very chic profile of tourists coming to play golf.”
Paes said the city will seek a private contractor to take over course operations after 2016.
“I’m not going to spend city money cutting that grass,” Paes said. “If it depends on me, that grass is going to grow high after the Olympics. I would never spend city money taking care of a golf course.”
On Sunday, about 60 people marched under the banner of a group called “Occupy Golf” in protest of the course’s environmental impact. One activist expressed his outrage that the city could spare water to irrigate the course at a time when he says many of its poorer residents are going thirsty.
“A small percentage of what is being wasted on the golf course could be used to help the population,” said Bruno Cintra, 31, who helped organize the protest. “Helping the population is an obligation. Making a golf course in the Atlantic woods is a crime.”