However, after all the difficulties — including land-ownership controversy and environmental lawsuits summoning the course design — to get the course shaped, seeded and growing, Hanse isn’t expecting the problems to stop here.
“The project has obviously had a lot of setbacks here and there along the way, so I can’t expect that it’s going to be completely smooth going forward,” Hanse said. “But we’re all enthused. The design is intact. They didn’t ask us to make any changes, so we’re proud of what’s being built.”
Hanse was hinting at a new movement by a group of Brazilian protesters expressing their opposition to the course and it’s possible effect on the environment. Calling themselves Occupa Golfe (“Occupy Golf”), the group set up shop on a highway median on a road passing by the course in the Barra de Tijuca suburb, according to the Washington Post. On January 6, Municipal Guards, a Rio police force armed with weapons, arrived to destroy a makeshift shelter erected by the protesters. The group posted a video to its Facebook page of what it says was police cruelty against protester Elson Soares Jr., who said he was hit in the groin many times by a female officer.
The protesters agree with Brazilian prosecutors who sued the city and the course’s land developer, declaring the course’s construction breaches the country’s environmental laws and harms several protected plant and animal species. That suit is now pending, with the developers declining to change the now-finished design. Olympic organizers and city officials say the city will build a new park as an exchange for the 14 acres taken from a city ecological park to construct the course.
The golf course has become yet another scapegoat for demonstrators who were at first prompted by a 2013 proposed increase in bus fares. Hundreds of thousands, many agonizing as the Brazilian economy languishes, opposed double-digit-percent increases in the fares, creating an uneasy atmosphere in the nation’s biggest cities. The police response to the protests did them no favors. In the end, the proposed increases were delayed by a year, but have now taken effect, inciting a new round of unrest.