Teahupo’o Locals Fizz To Olympic Organizers, “We Don’t Want Your $5 Million, Coral-Deleting Judgement Tower” - Stab Mag

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Teahupo’o Locals Fizz To Olympic Organizers, “We Don’t Want Your $5 Million, Coral-Deleting Judgement Tower”

Is it really worth it for a three-day event?

news // Oct 16, 2023
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The surf events at the Paris 2024 Olympics are set to unfold 15,705 kilometers away from Eiffel Tower, on the pristine shores of Teahupo’o, Tahiti. 

The Games’ organizers, conscious of the need to protect the tranquility of this small village, have spared no effort to assure that it will not be overwhelmed by hordes of spectators or burdensome infrastructure. Which is why they will be parking an enormous 126 metre, 103-cabin cruise ship in the channel to accommodate some athletes and staff. 

President of the environmental defence association Vai Ara o Teahupo’o, Cindy Otcenasek says the cruise ship “is not the best solution – the motors run all day – but it’s the one that won’t leave any lasting trace in Teahupo’o.”

Meet Aranui 5 – the site of Olympic Surfing hanky panky. At Rio 2016, the New York Times reported the athlete lounges were stocked with 450,000 free condoms. Six-time gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte estimated “70-75% of Olympians” were engaging in a bit of the old in-out-in-out at the Rio village

The official website of the Paris Olympics even confidently asserts that the disturbance will be minimal, promising that “the small-scale overlay installations set up for the Games will disappear after the competition.”

However, nestled within this commitment lies an intriguing caveat: “…with the exception of the new judges’ tower that will enable it to host major surfing events after the Games.” 

The aged wooden tower, long revered as the vantage point for countless Tahiti Pro camera operators and judges, is destined for obsolescence. In its stead, a permanent aluminum edifice, carrying a price tag of $5 million dollars, will emerge. 

Surely you can squeeze a couple more heads in there. Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League

“During WSL events, the judges’ platform accommodates 10 to 20 people. For the Olympics, the platform may need to accommodate up to 40 people, which could impact the lagoons’ coral reef,” said The Guardian.

This matter has been the source of considerable upset since its inception, with some of its 1500 local residents expressing their chagrin with a recent protest march from the marina to the point.

Matahi Drollet rallied the troops on Instagram, writing: “This peaceful walk is NOT against the Olympic Games but it’s is against THE NEW ALUMINIUM JUDGING TOWER they want to build on the reef. This is going to damage the reef and the whole ecosystem of the lagoon in front of the wave… and in the worst case scenario the wave of Teahupo’o also.”

He continues, “The Ocean and the lagoon is the most precious place we have here. This is where we get our food from, where we play, where we spend most of our time and where we have the most perfect wave in the world. It’s a heritage of our ancestors that we need to preserve. Our association that regroups Fisherman’s, farmers, surfers, the population of Teahupo’o, younger older people … we are against this new tower. We want them to use the normal judging tower that WSL uses every year. It works perfectly fine and they need to adapt to our environment and listen to what us locals say.”

This skirmish is not the first instance of friction stemming from the grand Olympic spectacle, as Mateia Hiquily has shared compelling visual evidence of kalo/taro fields behind the village being razed and supplanted with crushed gravel and concrete, making way for catering trucks and various electronic paraphernalia during the three-day duration of the contest.


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