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October 22, 2013

Birdies and Eagles and Gators, Oh My! But Rio Golf Organizers Say They Won't Bite

Posted at 11:56 AM by Josh Sens | Categories: 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro

Caiman

Blame it on Rio. Better yet, blame the international media, which can’t resist whipping up sensationalized headlines about the Brazilian city.

The latest doozie comes from Bloomberg.com, which this week posted this eye-catching non-story beneath the banner: Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course Planners Say Alligators Won’t Bite.

Never mind that the “alligators” in question aren’t gators at all but caimans: small, gator-like reptiles that are not regarded as a risk to people.

Some 6,000 of them live in the lagoons surrounding the site where golf will be played as an Olympic sport for the first time in 112 years.

Water hazards are part of the planned Olympic golf course, a Gil Hanse design commissioned for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

And where there is water, there are caimans.

Terrifying, right?

Not exactly, said Anthony Scanlon, executive director of the International Golf Federation, when prompted by reporters earlier this week.

“We’ll have a strategy in place that will minimize any possibility of a player or spectator coming across these,” he said. “The risk is minimal.”

Wildlife, of course, is not uncommon on golf courses, but rarely do we hear about the “risks” it poses, not even when the Tour swings through Florida, say, or Louisiana, where gators do get big enough to do damage.

Scanlon, for one, must have been amused by the caiman questions. He hails from Australia, a country that is home not just to outsize crocodiles but many of the world’s most poisonous snakes.

Somehow, he made it out of there alive.

As Scanlon sees it, the biggest wildlife threat in Rio comes not from caimans but from capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, which also live around the planned Olympic layout.

“They’re herbivores so they could potentially dig up the grass,” Scanlon said.

Brrrrr. Almost makes your blood run cold.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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