Home Olympic Games Work under way on Olympic surf tower despite protests

Work under way on Olympic surf tower despite protests

A file photo of ASP World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater of the US rides a wave during the Billabong Pro surfing tournament on the legendary reef break in Teahupoo,Tahiti. Picture: Reuters,Joseba Etxaburu

THE FIRST stage of construction of the controversial aluminium judges’ tower for the surfing event at the Paris Olympic Games was completed this week in Polynesia despite opposition from environmentalists.

The replacement of a wooden tower, which no longer meets standards, with an aluminium structure had resulted in protests.

“Supervision of the construction site by the teams who have used the tower for 20 years, the opening of the information kiosk, and local consultation on ‘environmental and heritage’ issues have favoured a return to calm,” Barbara Martins Nio, head of the Tahiti site for the Paris Olympics told AFP.

Work on the tower at Teahupo’o beach on the French Pacific island of Tahiti had been suspended in December after a barge used by workers damaged coral at the site.

Local surfers and environmentalists were outraged by the damage to the coral and an online petition against the project attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

Work on a lighter and lower tower than planned has begun with the foundations now complete and the assembly of the judges’ tower, pre-built on dry land, due to begin on March 11.

The new judges’ tower is expected to be completed by May 13 in time for a World Surf League (WSL) event which will serve as a dress rehearsal for the Olympics.

Tahiti, around 15,000 kilometres from Paris, was selected to host the second Olympic surfing competition in history with the aim of including France’s overseas territories in the Games.

“We’ve thrown in the towel,” Cindy Otcenasek, president of Vai Ara o Teahupoo, one of the associations opposed to the work, told AFP, saying they had done “everything that was possible within the limits of the law”.

The Olympic surfing event is scheduled for July 27 to 30, with a possible extension until August 5 if the swell is delayed.

Two Polynesian surfers, Kauli Vaast and Vahine Fierro, will represent France.


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