Summer Games 2024: Trouble over surfing tower: South Sea village opposes Olympic organizers

For the best surfers in the world, Teahupo'o has magical meaning.

Summer Games 2024: Trouble over surfing tower: South Sea village opposes Olympic organizers

For the best surfers in the world, Teahupo'o has magical meaning. One of the most famous and spectacular waves on the planet breaks in the South Pacific in front of the idyllic village in Tahiti. The Olympic Games also want to benefit from this in the summer.

The surfing competitions are not supposed to take place on the French Atlantic, but more than 15,000 kilometers from Paris in the legendary place in French Polynesia. A story about gigantism, environmental protection and compromise.

Essentially it's about the question: Olympics in a small fishing village in the South Seas - how does that work? When plans for the Olympic infrastructure there became public, surfers, fishermen and other locals rebelled against the makers.

Tower is a concern

It wasn't the competition as such that was a problem, but rather a planned aluminum tower on the coral reef. This must provide space for judges, photographers and other officials. According to the original planning, the structure was supposed to take on unprecedented dimensions, be firmly anchored in the reef and be equipped with, among other things, a sewage system and underwater pipes. The concern: The sensitive ecosystem could be damaged and the construction of the tower could have negative effects on the reef, the life of the fish and the wave.

Local surfers Eimeo Czermak and Matahi Drollet, among others, promoted an online petition against the new tower. “There is no way we will let them destroy this place for three or four days of competition,” Drollet wrote on Instagram in October.

A video he shared shows the nature, diverse flora and fauna of the reef. The impressive images are intended to raise awareness of the topic and show what needs to be protected. More than 160,000 people have already signed the petition.

Why not a wooden tower like before?

The critics do not doubt that a tower is needed. They think that a new construction that is supposed to cost several million euros is excessive and see it this way: If a wooden tower was built for the competitions of the WSL Championship Tour - a kind of surfing world cup with stars like surfing legend Kelly Slater or Tokyo Olympic champion Italo Ferreira - is enough, then it should also be enough for the Olympics.

Leon Glatzer thinks similarly. He thinks "that the existing wooden tower should be used to avoid new damage to the reef," said the only German Olympian in surfing to date to the German Press Agency.

The 26-year-old also said: "The IOC should adapt to the circumstances on site and respect the locals, who live there in very harmonious harmony with nature. I don't think it will affect the live broadcast if you "It's going there with a little bit less equipment when it comes to organization and production."

New plans from the organizers

And the organizers actually reacted and at least adjusted their original plans. Although the wooden tower cannot be used for safety reasons, an aluminum tower of a significantly reduced size can be used. It should only weigh nine tons instead of 14 tons and offer space for fewer people.

Because the tower is now smaller, the foundations don't have to be drilled as deeply. The corals are said to be less damaged than opponents feared. The organizers also want to forego the connection to the drinking and sewage system.

The organizing committee had previously announced in response to a dpa request that they wanted to offer a competition “that respects the environment, in which the games adapt to Teahupo'o and not the other way around.” The dialogue and work with environmental associations and residents should continue.

The extent to which they are now satisfied is at least questionable. Even after the changes, people continued to sign the online petition for the wooden tower.