The President of French Polynesia Moetai Brotherson told AFP on Tuesday that he was considering moving the 2024 Olympics surfing event to a spot other than the legendary Teahupo'o due to the controversial construction of a new tower in full lagoon.
Environmentalists, surfers and residents of the village of Teahupo'o are mobilizing against an aluminum judges' tower, built in the water especially for the Olympics event, which, according to them, could degrade the seabed and harm to the biodiversity of the site. In recent weeks, the mobilization has intensified.
Mr. Brotherson, who shares these fears, rules out the use of the aluminum tower and plans to organize the event at Taharuu, a less renowned but easier to access site, on the west coast of Tahiti. “It’s a beach break, equipped with all the infrastructure on land.”
During an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga (Cook Islands), he recalled that this spot had already been considered.
“This would have allowed us to avoid the problems we have today. At the time this was not possible. Given the issues and the protest today, perhaps we can revise this option,” the president underlined.
The planned tower, 14 meters high, should have three floors, an air-conditioned technical room for internet servers powered by an underwater cable, but also toilets with an evacuation system connected to a pipe.
Already built, it has not yet been installed on site. The cost of the project is estimated at nearly 4.4 million euros.
“I don't see where we could get the barge (of the drill) through (...) without exploding coral,” Mr. Brotherson explained to AFP.
Local surfer Matahi Drollet and the association defending the Vai Ara o Teahupoo site are at the origin of a petition which gathered more than 147,000 signatures on Tuesday.
For Mr. Brotherson, the only solution is to approve for the Olympic Games the wooden tower used in the competitions of the world surfing circuit in Teahupoo.
The Olympic organizing committee justifies this project by putting forward security reasons, the wooden tower (13.50m) no longer being up to standard.
A technical team is working on this hypothesis and must make a decision on November 15. According to the President of French Polynesia, it will also be necessary to determine whether the deadlines for calls for tenders and compliance are tenable.