Stab Magazine | Teahupo'o Approved By IOC Executives As Surfing Venue For 2024 Paris Olympics

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Teahupo’o Approved By IOC Executives As Surfing Venue For 2024 Paris Olympics

It’s increasingly possible that surfing’s first Olympic bid will take place in Tahiti.

news // Mar 4, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Three months ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss details surrounding the 2024 Paris Games. 

Part of their conversation (and one might imagine that this consumed less than three minutes of their week-long gathering) centered around surfing, which assuming everything goes well in Tokyo this summer, will make a return in the 2024 Olympics. 

Their main question was: where do we run this thing?

Obvious answers included anywhere in the Southwest of France—Hossegor, Biarritz, Lacanau, etc.—but then came a curveball: Tahiti.

Well, after three months of deliberation, today, approval was granted by the IOC Executive Board to hold the surfing portion of the Paris games in French Polynesia. This effectively ensures that Teahupo’o will be the site of Olympic surfing in 2024.

Because Tahiti is a French protectorate, it’s technically a viable site to hold an event in France’s Olympic year. And, as argued by some within the ISA/IOC bubble, of all the “French” waves, Teahupo’o would offer the most likely chance of pumping surf between the months of July/August.

They’re certainly not wrong.

However, there were detractors. 


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Odds that helmets will be obligatory in Tahiti 2024?


Last we heardIOC President Thomas Bach wasn’t a fan of holding the surf event at Teahupo’o, explaining he’d prefer a spot “closest to the center of the Games.”

Several of the French beach towns who had submitted proposals to host the Games were reportedly peeved that the surf event mightn’t run in continental France, arguing their waves were sufficient for a competition of this nature (especially since v1 of the Olympics will run in Japan). 

And not that we would necessarily include her in the “detractors” group, but when interviewed for The Pick-Up this winter, 7x World Champ Stephanie Gilmore expressed concern for less-experienced females who might find their way into an Olympic heat at Chopes. She said: “I’m a little scared for countries where surfing isn’t their strongest point. If someone qualifies and then they get thrown out at solid Teahupo’o, that’d be scary. But I think that’s because I’m deep down really scared for myself.”

On the flip side is “Brazilian” surfer Tatiana Weston Webb, who after free-surfing Teahupo’o earlier this year, answered the question, “Do you think the women should have an event here?”

“Honestly, yeah I think they should consider it,” she said. “I think the women on Tour nowadays are really capable of surfing wave like this—maybe not on the big day, but on the smaller days I think they would have a lot of fun.”

Tati’s sentiment aligns with the IOC’s headline-generating position that, “We can put the women on at a time of the day when the waves are less powerful.” 

As far as the politics of choosing the Olympic site go, we also know that the WSL individually reached out to top-CTers’ management teams, asking for a quote from the surfers about why they loved competing at Teahupo’o. These were presumably sent to the IOC as evidence to support the move to Tahiti.

What the WSL’s agenda is in all of this, we can’t be sure, but if we had to guess, it’s that they’ve been running events at Teahupo’o for 20 years, meaning that if the Olympics needed help with event planning and management, they’d be the ones to approach—not the ISA (this goes hand-in-hand with how hard the WSL fought for the Tokyo Games to be surfed in a wavepool—and particularly Slater’s wavepool—but to no avail). Also, running the event in pumping Teahupo’o (rather than a French beachie) has a better chance of catching fire and “growing the sport,” which at this point seems to be the WSL’s primary business model.

The IOC had a tough decision to make, as there’s more commercial value in running the surf event near the nucleus of the Games than some 15,000 km away in the middle of the Pacific, but then again, the whole point of bringing surfing into the Olympics is to capture a younger audience, and the best way to do that is to make the sport as exciting as possible, hence Teahupo’o.

But the question remains: how will the IOC deal with Tahiti’s—and especially Teahupo’o’s—remote nature.

“All 48 surfers due to would compete in the first week of the Games, would have the opportunity to spend the second week of the Games in the Olympic Village in Paris. They would also participate in the Closing Ceremony,” reports Inside The Games.

Temporary modular houses would form the Athletes’ Village for surfers competing in Tahiti,” ITG continues. “Paris 2024 revealed these would be dismantled after the competition and rebuilt in Tahiti and the islands as social housing.” 

It’s also worth noting that Teahupo’o could become surfing’s first Olympic venue, should the Tokyo Games be canceled due to the current coronavirus outbreak. However the IOC insists that this is an unlikely result. 


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