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Hockey star to build Latvia's first golf course

  • 2001-04-12
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Latvian national hero and National Hockey League all-star Sandis Ozolins has invested $5 million in the construction of Latvia's first 18-hole golf course on the outskirts of Riga.

Armands Puce, Ozolins' representative in Latvia, said every country needs at least one golf course.

"Golf is a middle class sport in the world today," Puce said. "It's just an eastern stereotype that golf is an aristocratic sport."

Although the site chosen for the course is in the beautiful, leafy Mezaparks region, protests from Latvian environmental activists have been scarce. A large number of trees will have to be removed for the project.

"We are happy that the Greens understand about cutting down those trees," Puce said. "Most of the area used to be an illegal garbage dump, but we have spent $1 million on removing all that garbage."

Latvia's Green Party co-chairman Valdis Felsbergs said at a press conference April 5 that the planned golf course will be in a remote part of the park and that a huge part of the area was previously used as an illegal site for waste dumping.

He believed it was a good thing that someone has invested money to get rid of the waste, because he didn't think Riga's city government would do it.

Puce denied allegations that Ozolins, 28, lent his fame to the For Fatherland and Freedom party during the recent municipal election campaign as payment for the right to cut down some 100 pine trees.

"We paid all the taxes the Council asked from us for that permission," Puce said. "There are very strong rules when it comes to cutting down trees here."

The Greens' only real concern is the chemicals that could be used to grow the grass for the course, as they could have a negative effect on the water quality in nearby Kisezers lake. But they are also dissatisfied with the absence of information about the construction of the golf course, saying the public should have been better informed.

Puce said it is possible Ozolins will be in Latvia in the near future to hold a press conference about the construction of the course.