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Image 1 for Towering inferno: Olympics organisers stick to Tahiti site amid coral reef fears

Locals and concerned surfers think the current, modest wooden, judging tower is plenty good enough. Pic: WSL

Towering inferno: Olympics organisers stick to Tahiti site amid coral reef fears

15 November 23

The back-and-forth over $5m aluminium tower planned at Teahupo’o for the 2024 Paris Olympics has been raging on for a month already, and despite an online petition with 150k signatures citing concerns over damage to the coral reefs, so far the arguments have fallen on deaf ears.


Paris 2024 organisers are sticking to their choice of Tahiti’s Teahupo’o for the Olympics surfing competition despite local opposition amid a dispute over the construction of an aluminium tower that residents say will damage the coral reef.

The idyllic lagoon-side village has long hosted some of the best contests on the professional World Surf League’s (WSL) championship tour, using a modest wooden tower for judges on the reef that is dismantled after each event.

Paris 2024, which has highlighted its ambition to minimise the Games’ environmental impacts, plans to spend nearly $5m (£4m) to build a much larger tower with toilets, air-conditioning and space for 40 people that it says is needed to meet safety standards.

An online petition calling for the scrapping of plans for the 14-metre aluminium scaffolding and 800m service channel through the reef had gathered more than 150,000 signatures by Wednesday. French Polynesia president, Moetai Brotherson, on Wednesday said the surfing events for the Summer Games could be moved to Taharuu, on Tahiti’s west coast.

“That would have enabled us to avoid the problems we have today. At the time, it wasn’t possible. In view of the issues at stake and the protests today, perhaps we can revise this option,” Brotherson was quoted as saying by French media at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Paris 2024 said it wished to find a solution through dialogue. “As our president, Tony Estanguet, recently pointed out, our priority today is to find a solution that will enable us to organise the surfing events of the Olympic Games in Tahiti, at the Teahupo’o site, in the best possible conditions,” Paris 2024 organisers said in a statement to Reuters.

“Tahiti was chosen because of the Teahupo’o site and its legendary wave, one of the most beautiful in the world. Discussions and studies will continue over the coming weeks to find a solution for organising the events on the Teahupo’o site.

“Along with all the stakeholders, and the Polynesian government in particular, Paris 2024 will continue to listen to all possible solutions to further improve the project. Dialogue and work will continue with environmental associations and local residents.”

The International Surfing Association (ISA), which is in charge of the competition at the Olympics, was not immediately available for comment. The Paris 2024 Olympics will be held from 26 July to 11 August.



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