News & Politics

$19 Million Rio Olympic Golf Course May be Left to 'Die'

David Davies/PA Wire. URN:28443781

Last year, the citizens of Boston banded together to reject bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which their mayor was intent on forcing them to do. Boston would eventually be joined by the cities of Hamburg, Germany, and Rome in saying, “No thanks” to the burden of hosting the Games.

Not only do the Olympics wreak havoc with a city during the two-week event, they often leave behind a lot of burdensome debt and briefly lively venues that eventually become blights on the landscape. The first big casualty from the most recent Olympics may be the very expensive golf course:

Despite a less-than-auspicious build-up, golf’s return to the Olympics was generally regarded as a success, laying the groundwork for the sport to remain in the Summer Games. But while golf’s Olympic future looks bright, the $19 million Rio golf course — built specifically for the event — is facing significant issues in the present.

According to an Agence France-Presse report, Progolf — the company that manages the course — has not been paid in two months by the Brazilian Golf Confederation. Progolf has been left to foot the $82,000 monthly bill on its own and is set to pull out, which could trigger a quick collapse.

“The golf course will die,” a source said. “It could take four weeks, three weeks.”

Worse, the course continues to lack basic facilities and amenities. There is no website, and the grounds lacks proper signage. The course doesn’t have a pro shop. The Brazilian Golf Confederation’s president said the course gets 40 players per day, but employees admitted the actual attendance is far less.

“We are bitterly disappointed if this is the outcome for all of our efforts in creating the Olympic Course,” Gil Hanse, architect of the Rio Olympic Course, said to Golf World. “We witnessed this type of brinksmanship during the construction of the course, and we are hopeful that this is another example of having to hit a low point before things get better.”

The Brazilian Golf Confederation is asking for patience, pledging a new restaurant and marketing campaign to begin within 120 days. But given all the roadblocks and controversy in its past, the Rio Olympic Course’s future doesn’t look bright.

This is pretty simple: if the people who are being paid to water the golf course stop watering the golf course, there will be no more golf course.

$19 million washed down the drain without any water — it’s a miracle!

A discussion has arisen in recent years about having permanent hosting sites for the Olympics. At first, the discussion seemed like typical sports-fan opinion venting that would go nowhere. If, however, cities simply keep refusing to submit themselves to the expensive bidding process and the crushing financial burden that follows that, the International Olympic Committee may have its hand forced.

Even a small rotating list of permanent host cities would work better than the increasingly unsustainable current model. One of the reasons the residents of Los Angeles didn’t reject bidding for the 2024 Summer Games is that much of the infrastructure needed to host already exists. The Coliseum has been the main venue for two past Olympics already, and we have accommodations for almost every Summer Games sport there is. A permanent host city would be the same. Venues would be built and kept up for future use, and all of the tourism money a city receives would be surplus after the initial construction costs are recovered.

The IOC will probably be looking at that model, or facing bids from less desirable cities (welcome to the Mosul Summer Olympics!) as time goes on.