State prosecutor asks that work on Olympic golf course in Rio be halted

By Jenny Barchfield and Stephen Wade
Published on
State prosecutor asks that work on Olympic golf course in Rio be halted

RIO DE JANEIRO – Construction work on the golf course for the 2016 Olympics could be halted under a filing made by state prosecutors suing the city of Rio de Janeiro and the developer over environmental rules. 
In a 27-page legal brief made public late Wednesday, prosecutors termed "laughable" proposals by the city and the course developer to modify the layout to reduce environmental impact. 
A Rio judge began hearing the lawsuit two months ago. It was still not clear when he might make his decision. Thursday was a holiday in Rio. 
The course, estimated by local media to be about 70 percent done, is being cut out of a nature reserve in western Rio near the main cluster of venues for the Olympics and is part of a complex of luxury apartments selling for $3 million to $7 million. 
Prosecutors have argued the environment must be the primary concern, not the Olympics. 
"Even the eventual possibility of not fulfilling the deals and contracts with the Olympic committee must not supersede the need to preserve the environment," the legal brief said. "Breaking the contracts will only bring about eventual fines while the environmental damage, through the destruction of an important ecosystem, will never be repaired." 
Golf is returning to the Olympics after a 112-year absence. The sport was to be a centerpiece in Rio, but the course has faced numerous delays and legal challenges. Some critics have suggested the project is more about a real estate development than a golf course. 
Prosecutors allege the environmental licensing process was riddled with errors. In the brief, they ask the judge to suspend the license, which would bring construction to a halt. 
Construction workers have been putting down grass for months, hoping to have the work finished as the South American summer growing season begins. Officials say the course needs two full growing seasons to be playable at a top level. 
The defendants in the case – the city of Rio and the golf course developer – have insisted any legal impediments to the course's construction could harm the Olympics, Rio, and the city's international reputation. 
The prosecutors rejected a proposal by the city and the developer to modify the course design to limit its environmental impact, saying the proposed changes were too little, too late. 
"The public prosecutors' office did not accept the proposed deal because ... the defendants did nothing more than adapt the environment to the (golf course) project and not the project to the environment, as it should be," the prosecutors wrote. 
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