Rio Olympic course recognised by Golf Environment Organization

Rio Olympic course recognised by Golf Environment Organization
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert

The Rio Olympic Golf Course has achieved Golf Environment Organization (GEO) Certified Development status for its commitment to improving the environment and golfing opportunities for local communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The status was awarded after an independent auditor spent three years monitoring, evaluating and visiting the golf course during the design, construction and maintenance phases.

“The achievement is in recognition of the many nature conservation and resource efficiency activities undertaken to date,” said a GEO spokesperson. “It takes into account the longer term net positive social and environmental impacts that the facility is set to deliver in the months and years ahead, which are framed within the management agreements.

GEO’s report found that the design of the ‘naturalised’ golf course has enabled a 167% increase in vegetation cover, a net increase in biodiversity (from 118 to 263 species), and creating opportunities for recolonisation by native species. Plus, more than 15,000 native plants were transplanted.

In addition, workers used existing on-site sand and soil during the construction process, while the clubhouse was built with local, recycled and certified materials. The pathways were formed with 100% recycled slate quarry waste.

After the Olympics, the course will be turned into a facility for coaching and training local golfers and national teams. It will be supported by a Golf Academy that will improve the quantity and quality of Brazilian players; a development golf centre to encourage school children and communities to play golf; an environmental education centre to increase local awareness about sustainable golf development; and a knowledge and technical centre to encourage social inclusion through sport for people aged 14-18. The centre will run in partnership with technical schools and universities, offering caddie, coach and referee development programmes and specialised vocational training in greenkeeping and sports turf and environmental management.

“The final outcomes are that a degraded site, that was primarily either devoid of vegetation or becoming over-run with exotic species, and potentially vulnerable to other forms of 'harder' development, will now be actively managed for nature conservation, local community recreation, education, and sports development by a non-profit sports body in collaboration with other local stakeholders, and guided by a robust environmental management plan,” said the GEO spokesperson. “We look forward to working with those partners and stakeholders in the project going forward to help make sure that the venue goes on to maximise its role in nature conservation, resource efficiency and innovation and community engagement.”

GEO also praised the ‘valuable role’ that the course played in road testing and developing a new sustainability standard for golf development, which will be introduced launched internationally in the near future.

“The International Golf Federation (IGF) is delighted that more than three years of planning, design and construction of the Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course have culminated in the course being awarded GEO Certified® Development status,” said Antony Scanlon, executive director of the IGF. “From the start, it was imperative that this once degraded site should emphasise the biodiversity of the location while maintaining its environmentally protected status and ensuring that the risks to the indigenous species and habitat would be minimised. We believe this has been achieved successfully, and we are very proud of the fact that once the athletes leave, Rio will have a sustainable, environmentally protected setting to play an important social, educational and sporting role in the years ahead.”

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