Ty Votaw

Rio Olympic golf course progress speeds up

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Rio Olympic organizers have significantly increased development of the first Olympic golf venue since 1904 in the last two months after previous delays, but it probably would not be able to hold a test event until less than a year before the Games, International Golf Federation officials said Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say that more work has been done in the last 45 days than in the previous six months, but I wouldn’t be too far off if I said that,” IGF vice president Ty Votaw said at The Players Championship.

The faster pace and greater man power came after a dissatisfied IGF president Peter Dawson said in late March that course construction progress was behind schedule.

“We are going to struggle to get a test event a year before the Games,” Dawson said then. “I’m not writing that off completely, but we have to recognize that might be difficult. However, I still think it will be ready in time for the Olympics.”

Two weeks after Dawson’s comments, the International Olympic Committee announced it would send executive director Gilbert Felli to Rio de Janeiro several months earlier than scheduled to oversee day-to-day business as part of a series of emergency measures to address delayed preparations in several areas. IGF officials said the golf course is one of about 10 venues Felli is working on.

The Rio Organizing Committee is responsible for delivering the Olympic golf venue. The IGF is responsible for approving it.

The next step for the development of the Rio Olympic golf course is for it to be grassed, hopefully by the end of 2014, Votaw said. Even if that target is hit, holding a test event in August 2015, one year before the Olympics, on a course with eight months of grass maturation “wouldn’t be a good step forward for us,” Votaw said.

“The likelihood of a test event a year out continues to be improbable, and how much further within that year out we go all depends on our grassing schedule and how much the golf course matures,” Votaw said.

About 10 members of the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee have been at TPC Sawgrass this week, observing operational setups for one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule — from security to catering to hospitality to ticketing. They’re taking lessons to use in planning in Brazil, a nation without a long-standing golf tradition.

“For some of them [Rio organizers in Ponte Vedra Beach], this is a very big event and bigger than what they’ve worked on,” IGF executive director Antony Scanlon said. “It gives them a bit of size and scale of what they’re facing. For others, this is what they expected.

“This is a sport that’s not very large in Brazil. The proximity of the players to the public is something that most security agencies are concerned by, and the great expertise that the PGA Tour has here is allaying their fears and helping them with their fans.”

One question yet to be answered two years out is how big the crowds will be at the Olympic golf tournaments. The Players Championship is equipped to handle 50,000 fans per day. Rio organizers have also visited the British Open and World Golf Championships events.

“To the extent that [Rio organizers] are going to be prepared for ’16, they’re going to need to be exposed to the biggest possible crowds and the biggest possible logistics and the biggest possible security issues,” Votaw said. “When you have a stadium-like golf course like this and this amount of a crowd, we thought this would be a good event for them to at least get that exposure.”

Votaw and Scanlon said IGF officials will next be in Rio in June as part of an IOC venue construction review team.

“It’s been a great partnership with Rio,” Scanlon said. “That’s why [Rio organizers] are here [in Ponte Vedra Beach].”

Another publicized issue is the status of Rory McIlroy and other players whose Olympic nationality isn’t cut and dry. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, but there is no Northern Ireland team at the Olympics. It’s been reported he could represent Great Britain, or he could be tied to represent Ireland because he competed under an Irish flag as recently as the 2011 World Cup of Golf.

The IGF hopes to finalize the nationality policy by July, two years before the Olympic golf fields of 60 men and women are determined. The fields are set by world rankings, which take into account players’ results over the previous two years.

That would make it clearer not only for a player like McIlroy, currently ranked No. 11 in the world, but also for other players from Great Britain and Ireland observing rankings to determine their chances of making the Olympics.

“If there’s a dual nationality player before the eligibility starts [in July 2014], it’s equitable for every other player from each of those countries to know who is ahead of them on the world rankings from that country,” Votaw said.

The Olympic golf field will invite everybody from the world top 15, with no more than four players per nation. Beyond the top 15, the field will be filled according to the rankings with a maximum of two players per country that does not already have two or more in the top 15.

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Ceremony marks 4 years to go before Tokyo hosts Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — Organizers held a ceremony on Sunday to mark four years to go before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.

A group of Japanese school children helped put the finishing touches on a giant globe made out of 2,020 origami paper cranes in the ceremony held at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Yoshinobu Miyake, who won a gold medal in weightlifting the last time Tokyo hosted the Summer Games in 1964, attended the ceremony.

Takashi Yamamoto, the vice governor of Tokyo, also attended. Former governor Yoichi Masuzoe resigned last month for allegedly using political funds for personal purposes.

The 2020 Olympics will take place between July 24 and Aug. 9.

Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of the IOC voting for hosting rights. Madrid was eliminated on the first ballot.

Ready or Not: Rio Olympics open doors at Athletes Village

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 15:  A view of buildings at the Olympic Village on June 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Felipe Dana-Pool/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Ready or not, the Rio Olympics are opening their doors.

The Games begin in just over two weeks, but the Athletes Village opens officially on Sunday, meaning 10,500 athletes and another 7,000 staff members will start trickling into the luxurious layout, with the pace picking up daily until the Aug. 5 opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

The 31-building compound should pamper the world’s best. It’s set among tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools – with mountains and the sea as a backdrop – and topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that’s as large as three football fields.

“I want to help all the athletes have a wonderful welcome to Brazil,” said Priscilla Antonello, a residence center deputy manager whose job is to help athletes find their accommodations.

Will she be star-struck by so many Olympians?

“I couldn’t be in this job if I behaved like that,” she replied Saturday, standing on the 13th floor of one of buildings, gazing out over cycling paths, bubbling fountains and lots of green.

She already knows which countries will be where, but she’s not allowed to say.

Some delegations had already arrived on Saturday, easy to spot with banners or flags hanging off the sides of buildings.

Slovenia had the best banner. In green and white it says: “I Feel sLOVEenia.” The LOVE portion was set off in white type, making sure the message got across.

Another read: “All for Denmark.”

Banners or flags from Canada, Britain, Portugal, Finland and Sweden were among those spotted. A tiny red and yellow Chinese flag was pinned near the top of one of the compounds.

Everything about the village is massive, though fairly standard for recent Summer Olympics.

Organizers say the compound has:

– 10,160 rooms; 18,000 beds; seven laundries; an enormous, hospital-like clinic; a massive gym.

In addition, organizers are providing 450,000 condoms, three times more than London did four years ago. Among them will be 100,000 female condoms.

Organizers said this is to encourage safe sex. Many had considered that increased supply to be due to Brazil’s outbreak of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects.

Asked about it on Saturday, deputy chief medical officer Marcelo Patricio replied: “No, it’s not.”

Then there’s the dining-kitchen area, a sprawling tent where officials expect to serve about 60,000 meals daily to Olympians and staff – and perhaps another 10,000 daily to the hired help.

“The hardest part is knowing how much to prepare,” said Flavia Albuquerque, who oversees Rio’s food and beverage service. “We want them to eat anything they want to.”

That will be easy. The choices are nearly infinite. Diners will choose from different buffets – Brazilian, Asian, International, and Pasta and Pizza. Then there’s a casual dining area that will feature barbeque.

“The casual area might be the most popular,” Albuquerque said.

There will be lots of dirty plates, but none to wash. The plates will be biodegradable, made of corn and sugar cane.

Brazilians figure their food will be a hit: rice, black beans, farofa (flour from toasted cassava often sprinkled on top of food) and meat. And Brazil’s exotic juice will be popular: caju, acai, carambola, caqui, goiaba and maracuja, often squeezed into juices – sucos in Portuguese.

Billionaire real estate developer Carlos Carvalho might have the only problem.

He aims to sell the 3,604 apartments after the Olympics – some in the range of 2.3 million ($700,000). Carvalho’s company Carvalho Hosken has declined to say how many have been sold, but reports say only between 6-10 percent.

The project is a victim of Brazil’s deep recession, the worst since the 1930s.

Carvalho Hosken earlier said the project’s total cost was about $1.5 billion, including construction, land acquisition and other development costs.

MORE: Rio unveils largest athletes village in Olympic history