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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Not even the high temperatures diminished the enthusiasm of athletes this week trying out one of the most controversial facilities in Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, the golf course. The area was inaugurated this week, with its first test event being praised both by the International Golf Federation (IGF) and Brazilian golfers.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, golf
Olympic golf course is built partly in the Marapendi reserve in Barra da Tijuca, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

Golf is making a return to the Olympic Games after last being played in 1904. “This field will leave an extraordinary legacy for the Brazilian sport,” said Carlos Nuzman, President of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee.

For Antony Scanlon, executive director at IGF there only minor changes to be made before August, “What is needed are details which will turn good Games into fantastic Games,” said the official.

The mega-construction project sparked controversy when it was first announced, due to the fact that it is partly located in the Marapendi natural reserve, an environmentally protected area in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca and is part of Brazil’s Atlantic.

The start of construction led activists to camp out and protests for months in front of the area and even a civil suit filed by environmentalists questioning the legality of the environmental license given to the project.

According to environmentalists more than 130 species of animals, including alligators, owls and sloths make their homes in this area and there was a fear that the construction and human presence would to the disappearance of many of these animals.

For Carina Flores, coordinator of sustainability at Rio 2016, the area was degraded and the project actually improved the reserve, “Since the area has been recovered, more animals have entered it looking to live here and looking for food,” she said.

After the Olympics the Brazilian Golf Confederation will be in charge of maintaining the course.

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