It is in the following days that the Rio Olympic’s organizing committee will announce the team that will be in charge of designing the golf course which will be host of the Olympic golf competition for men and women in 2016, 112 years after the last presence of the sport in the games.
This project is probably the one that has generated the most interest from architects in many years, simply because of the prestige and visibility that this course will obtain during the games. This will no doubt be a dream opportunity for a team to make its mark in the industry, and be talked about for a very long time. But it will also be a very complex project that will be created under the eyes of the entire industry which will expect nothing less than a grand slam. In other words, this course will be picked apart by hundreds of so-called architecture “experts”!
Many teams have submitted a bid to hopefully be chosen in a competition that started last fall. Now, eight teams remain in the hunt:
· Jack Nicklaus et Annika Sorenstam
· Tom Doak
· Greg Normal et Lorena Ochoa
· Martin Hawtree
· Gill Hanse
· Gary Player
· Robert Trent Jones II et Mario Gonzalez
· Peter Thompson and Ross Perrett
These teams will make a final presentation to a jury comprised of one representative from the city of Rio, one representative from the organizing committee, one representative from the company that will run the course once the games will be done, and finally, one representative from the International Golf Federation – an organization committed to promoting the sport worldwide.
As far as I am concerned, the choice of the architect will be crucial, even if the majority of viewers who will follow the golf events will have no clue who the architect of the course is, and what difference it makes. The choice is crucial because of the prestige of the event, and the fact that this will be an occasion for this committee to send a message as to what constitutes a great golf course that represents not only the Olympic movement and all of its values, but also the roots of the game of golf (and no, I am not talking about money!).
I sincerely hope that their choice will not go towards one of golf’s emblematic figures still part of the process, such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman or Gary Player. These athletes and great personalities have certainly contributed to the popularity of the sport, and in that regard, they have all of my admiration and respect. But their very lucrative association with a immense quantity of course designs has also contributed in making golf the sport that so many people today describe as expensive, elitist, and at the source of profitable home lots, without any regards to the modest and populist origins of the sport. Can we blame them, and many others similar golf figures? Certainly not; they have only surfed on the wave. Today, however, it seems evident that their model has to make place to a simpler, more accessible one, aimed towards developing the sport and all its benefits, particularly with an aging population in many markets. It seems like the only logical way to help the sport develop again.
In that sense, my vote goes to either Tom Doak or Gill Hanse: two architects which, in my humble opinion, have solidly made their case in the past few years towards that goal. It’s also not a surprise that is it most likely these two teams that have the smallest available financial resources to participate in this complex process which, I am afraid, will be more politic than based on good old common sense and the artistic and creative qualities of the finalists.
To be continued in a few days…. I am crossing my fingers.