PARIS: Paris 2024 organisers have changed plans for an aluminium tower on Tahiti’s Teahupo’o site for the Olympic surfing competition due to local opposition over potential damage to the coral reef.
The idyllic lagoon-side village has hosted events on the professional World Surf League’s (WSL) championship tour using a modest wooden tower for judges, which is taken down after each event.
An online petition against the 14-metre (45 foot) aluminium scaffolding and 800m (half-mile) service channel through the reef had over 160,000 signatures.
A new, smaller, lighter tower will be installed to minimize environmental impact.
“Based on analysis and shared priorities, the project for a new tower, less imposing and reduced in size and weight, was chosen as the best option,” Paris 2024 said in a joint statement with the French Polynesia government and the Haut Commissariat (French State representation in Polynesia) on Friday.
“This presents the advantage of being able to reduce the depth of drilling for the foundations of the tower and allow the use of a barge with a shallower draught during the construction phase.”
The tower will weigh nine tons instead of 14 tons and will be 150 square metres – compared to the planned 200 sqm.
French Polynesia president Moetai Brotherson suggested moving the surfing events for the Summer Games to Taharuu, on Tahiti’s West coast.
“Work to lighten the tower will make it possible to reduce the depth of drilling for the foundations. A new, smaller motorised barge, with a shallow draught (20 cm), will be used to transport the equipment and guarantee easier access to the lagoon, without any risk of damage to the coral,” the joint statement said.
“The (local) associations will shortly be invited to come and check this route during an in situ test with the new barge, loaded with drilling equipment.”