University of Miami Inter-American Law Review


The sport of golf returned as an official event at the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro following a prolonged absence from the Games. To accommodate golf’s return, the city of Rio endorsed the construction of the Olympic golf course on land adjoining the Marapendi lagoon—land historically known to be ecologically valuable and environmentally protected. With the Games rapidly approaching, the city quickly passed complementary Law 125, stripping this land of its environmental protection, and instead authorizing a golf course as a sustainable use of the land.

Local environmentalists have challenged the legislation and the city’s decision, arguing that large-scale economic incentives associated with hosting the Games have shoved aside long-term environmental preservation measures. Many argue that the decision to construct the Olympic course is shortsighted given the sport’s unpopularity in Brazil and the course’s uncertain future beyond the Closing Ceremony. This paper provides a holistic synopsis of the Olympic golf course as its construction has displaced much of the wildlife that once called the area home. While the immediate effects of Complementary Law 125 and the Olympic course construction are apparent, the long-term ones are more uncertain. As environmental goals yield to economic ones, dissension between city officials and environmentalists continues to grow. Only one thing is certain: the Olympic course will be used for those 16 days in August 2016, but what will become of it once the Olympic torch is extinguished—only time will tell.