A wind of relief for the Tahitians… and for the organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Following a meeting with environmental associations, Sunday December 10, the Polynesian President, Moetai Brotherson assured that the Olympic surfing event will take place at the famous Teahupo’o spot.
“The solution that we managed to get adopted this evening allows the Games to be held here,” rejoiced the manager. Torn between the painful economic consequences that a relocation of the event would have caused and the anger of the local population, the latter was satisfied to have obtained the “unanimous” support of all the mayors, the Surfing Federation and even associations, apart from one.”
Months of tension
The replacement of a wooden tower with an aluminum structure for the judges, required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), had been a source of tension for months. During technical tests on December 1, a barge planned for the installation of this new tower broke coral, pushing the Polynesian government to pause the work. After discussions between the different parties, a revision of the IOC specifications was adopted. The aluminum tower has been reduced in size and weight compared to the initial project, although technicians say further drilling into the coral remains necessary.
This decision, although it looks like a way out of the crisis, does not convince all the players. “The current position is that we do not want any new foundation,” recalled on the local channel TNTV the president of the environmental protection association Vai ara o Teahupoo, Cindy Otcenasek, spearhead of the mobilization.
For its part, the NGO Surfrider recalls that the reef ecosystem and the Teahupo’o lagoon have remained healthy for several generations thanks to the dedicated management of the local population. “As a result, any project related to the Teahupo’o Reef ecosystem should only be carried out with the full collaboration of the local community,” the organization believes. “While we understand the expectation of surfing fans to see the world’s best athletes compete on one of the most beautiful waves in the world, we strongly urge the IOC to respect the interests and traditions of the Tahitians who protect the integrity of this unique marine ecosystem,” says Surfrider.
Tests carried out in May
Another story, that of the Association for the Defense of Fenua’aihere, the preserved nature area where the Teahupo’o site is located. Its president, Annick Paofai, present at the Moetai Brotherson press conference, praised the efforts of the government and the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (Cojo) before admitting that she “can no longer go back”. “We are doing the Games, we have to move forward together,” she declared.
From now on, the work, suspended on December 4, will resume. Moetai Brotherson presented a schedule leading to a functional tower on May 13, a few days before the World Surf League (WSL) world tour stop. This competition will serve as a test before the Olympic Games in July.
If on the side of the ministry, we welcome an end to the crisis “in good collective intelligence”, the French Surfing Federation (FFS) recalls for its part “never having been consulted” by the organizers of the Paris 2024 Games, “neither on the choice of the site nor on the terms of the surfing competition”. Furthermore, “we do not want to interfere in the territory of the Tahitian Surfing Federation,” specifies the body.