Company claiming golf course land may negotiate
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - The company claiming ownership of the land where the 2016 Olympic golf course is to be built says it's willing to negotiate with Rio officials if it's awarded the property, giving the city a possible way to keep construction on track even if current plans fall through because of the legal dispute.
The lawyer for Elmway Participacoes said Wednesday the company is not against having the golf course built on the land even though that wasn't its initial plan for the area.
The company's comments came a day after Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said it would try to reach a deal for the golf course with whoever owns the land, even if that is not the developer who had already reached an agreement with local Olympic organizers.
Construction could still be delayed, however, until a higher court rules on the land ownership, which could take months or years.
The mayor's apparent change in stance despite having already announced an agreement with one of the developers came just as International Olympic Committee officials are making an annual visit to inspect the city's preparations for the 2016 Games.
The land dispute has been a sticky issue for the city, which last month was served a search warrant and was ordered to show all of its contracts for the golf course, although it later won a legal battle after a judge refused to temporarily block construction or any other activity related to the project.
Earlier this year, Elmway said it didn't know what it would do with the land if it won the legal dispute, and hinted it could go ahead with previous plans to build a housing or commercial complex. But company lawyer Sergio Antunes Lima Jr. told The Associated Press on Wednesday his client will definitely talk to the city about the possibility of building the course.
"We can definitely negotiate after the court rules in our favor. Elmway is willing to sit down and listen to what the city has to say and see what it has to offer,'' Lima Jr. said. "It will be a business negotiation, but the company will not be intransigent when it gets the land.''
Lima Jr. said Elmway will not negotiate with the current developer claiming ownership, however, and will continue its legal fight for the area.
Paes announced in March that the city had reached an agreement with businessman Pasquale Mauro and a local construction company to have the course built on the land. The city said it would alter some of the building requirements in the area and, in exchange, Mauro and the construction company would pay for the $30 million course.
"We will make a deal with whoever owns the land,'' Paes said Wednesday, dismissing concerns over the golf course.
The International Olympic Committee acknowledged that the outcome of the legal dispute was unpredictable, but also said it was not expecting problems regardless of what happened in the courts.
"We are fully confident we will find a solution for the golf course,'' IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said.
The decision on who owns the land remains in the hands of Brazil's Higher Court of Justice and there is no timetable on a ruling. Elmway has been fighting for the land for about three years.
The course construction was initially scheduled to begin in October and finish in time for test events early in 2015. The city has been saying it has not looked at another location for the course.
The course, designed by American architect Gil Hanse, will host the first Olympic golf tournament in more than 110 years. The sport made its debut at the second modern Olympics in Paris in 1900, but was removed after the 1904 St. Louis Games.
The IOC coordination commission's three-day visit to inspect Rio's preparations for the 2016 Games ended on Wednesday. It was the third full inspection since the city was picked in 2009 to host the games.
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