Judge asked to block land for course

SAO PAULO -- A company disputing ownership of the land where the 2016 Olympic golf course is proposed to be built has asked a judge to annul all contracts and block construction on the site.

Elmway Participacoes said Thursday it doesn't want the city of Rio de Janeiro and its partners making any deals related to the golf course until a higher court decides who owns the land.

The city previously said it reached an agreement with the other developer who says he owns the land. But after being served a search warrant last week it denied having signed any contracts because the golf course will be a private undertaking.

The course construction was scheduled to begin in October, and the goal was to finish it in time for test events early in 2015. But a final ruling on the land ownership, which is in the hands of Brazil's Higher Court of Justice, could take months or even years. The city has been saying it has no Plan B in case the dispute drags on.

The course, designed by American Gil Hanse, will host the first Olympic golf tournament in more than 100 years. The sport made its debut at the second modern Olympics in Paris in 1900, but was removed after the 1904 St. Louis Games.

Elmway asked the judge to suspend previous deals and to keep the city from reaching any future agreements with partners who will build the golf course, as well as to "prevent the defendant from performing any construction" on the land.

There is no timetable on when the judge might rule. The judge may deny the urgency request made by lawyer Sergio Antunes Lima Jr. and ask for the city to present its defense before making a final ruling on the case.

The city said it would not immediately comment on the most recent legal action because it had not been officially notified by the court.

The city announced in March the deal made with developer 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.

A court last week issued a search warrant for the contracts on behalf of Elmway, saying it had the right to see the documents related to the land, which the city said didn't exist.

Local Olympic organizers said they expect the contracts for the course to be finalized by the end of June, and that the city wouldn't be directly involved even though it was responsible for choosing the land and facilitating the agreement. The contracts are expected to involve the Rio 2016 Committee, which will oversee the course, Mauro and the construction company.

A good impression in Rio will be critical in keeping the sport in the Games beyond 2020. A decision on that is scheduled to be made by the International Olympic Committee in 2017.