New tower at surfing venue in Tahiti blowing up again as problem issue for Paris Olympic organizers

Organizers of the Paris Olympics say work will continue on a new tower for judges and TV cameras at the surfing venue in Tahiti

John Leicester
Wednesday 20 December 2023 13:23 GMT

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Louise Thomas

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Organizers of the Paris Olympics said Wednesday that building work will continue on a new tower for judges and TV cameras at the surfing venue in Tahiti despite the sport's governing body saying it no longer supports the controversial project.

The International Surfing Association announced Tuesday that it doesn't want the tower to be built in the lagoon at Teahupo'o, chosen for the Olympic surfing competitions next July because of its world-famous giant waves.

The federation posted on social media that alternatives should be found. It cited “the likelihood that any new construction on the reef will have an impact on the natural environment" and what it said is a lack of support among Tahitians for the tower. The ISA suggested that judges could instead follow the competitions from a tower built on land, rather than in the lagoon with pristine waters and shallow reefs.

Campaigners in Tahiti fear that transporting the aluminum tower into the lagoon and attaching it to new concrete foundations will harm marine life. Their concerns were heightened by damage done to coral in the lagoon when a barge meant to transport the tower was tested this month.

But with time pressing ahead of a surfing competition planned in May to test the venue, Paris Games organizers say that other options suggested by the ISA have already been examined and discarded.

Chief Paris Games organizer Tony Estanguet noted Wednesday that the Tahitian government decided earlier this month to continue with the tower's construction and said that plan has large support locally.

“The project continues. That's the wish of the local actors,” Estanguet said.

He also made clear that Paris Games organizers and the International Olympic Committee are ultimately responsible for deciding how the competition will be held.

“The federation doesn’t have the final word,” Estanguet said. ”I don’t doubt that we’ll find a good solution."

At an end-of-year news conference where he gave an upbeat summary of Paris’ preparations for its first games in a century, Estanguet also responded to recent criticism from track and field’s Sebastian Coe about the cost of Paris' tickets.

Coe, the World Athletics president, said “these are going to be the most expensive ticket prices in an athletics arena that we have witnessed at an Olympic Games.” He added: “I certainly don’t want athletes and their families being costed out of the stadium.”

“There are always going to be premium tickets, but it is important that our stadiums are full of people that love our sport, not people that can afford to get to an Olympics," Coe said.

But Estanguet said that public appetite for Paris’ tickets is unprecedented, with 7.6 million already sold, and that prices are comparable to those at the London Olympics in 2012, which Coe presided over as the chief organizer. Some London Games tickets were more expensive than their equivalent in Paris, Estanguet said.

One million of the cheapest Paris tickets were priced at 24 euros, the equivalent of a bit more than 20 British pounds or $26, and half were 50 euros or less, he said. He added that Paris' tickets for track and field finals started at 85 euros, with the best seats priced at 980 euros — the equivalent of around 850 pounds or $1,070.

In London, “their top price was 750 pounds, which is a bit more (than) 1,000 euros with inflation today — so prices slightly higher than those of Paris 2024 (and) that was 12 years ago,” Estanguet said.

“So our price list is in the norms," he said.


AP coverage of the Paris Olympics:

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