Organizers of the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years say there is little risk of alligator-like creatures slithering onto fairways or greens during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
As many as 6,000 caimans, members of the alligator family, live in sewage-infested lagoons around western Rio, and some have moved into water features built as part of Gil Hanse’s design for Brazil’s first public golf course. The reptiles, much smaller and more docile than crocodiles, are not considered a risk to people, though encroachment on their habitat has meant contact with humans is increasing.
“We’ll have a strategy in place that will minimize any possibility of a player or spectator coming across these,” Anthony Scanlon, executive director of the International Golf Federation, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro yesterday. “The risk is minimal.”
Some caimans have migrated toward ponds on the site of the golf course as their natural mangrove-filled habitat has become inundated with sewage from condominiums that have mushroomed in recent years around Rio’s Barra district.
“The other thing to remember about these alligators is, if they do arrive, they arrive at night and we won’t be playing golf at night,” Scanlon said on a visit to Rio. “I don’t think we’re going to get a bite.”
Scanlon said course builders are working with conservation experts to contain animals including the caiman and the capybara, the largest rodent and potentially more of a risk to the course.
“They’re herbivores so they could potentially dig up the grass,” he said of the capybaras, who also live near water.
Scanlon pointed out wildlife isn’t uncommon at golf courses, such as alligators in Florida and kangaroos in his native Australia.
“Where you have a natural green space like this it attracts wildlife, which is what you want,” Scanlon said. “You want to create your own ecosystem.”
Golf is returning to the Olympic program for the first time since 1904. Both the men’s and women’s events will feature 72-hole stroke-play formats.
The world’s top 15 players will qualify, with a maximum of four representatives from each nation. Outside of the elite 15, each competing federation can select up to two players to compete in the 60-player tournaments.