Teahupo'o Reef "Massacred" By Olympic Barge - Stab Mag

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The barge grinded to a halt yesterday during a construction "pre-test". Courtesy Save Teahupo'o

Teahupo’o Reef “Massacred” By Olympic Barge

Should surfers boycott the IOC?

news // Dec 3, 2023
Words by Christian Bowcutt
Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the latest installment of No Contest, we heard from Tahitian locals about their opposition to the new judging tower that is set to be built for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

A month ago, Matahi Drollet shared a video on Instagram that soon went viral, explaining how the Olympic Committee was planning to construct a new judging tower to replace the “old” one, which has been used at every Teahupo’o competition for the past 20 years.

The problem? The new tower is slated to require 12 new foundations to be built, which Tahitian locals say will cause irreparable damage to the coral reef below. But the key issue isn’t necessarily the foundations themselves — the construction will require a barge to move materials and manpower to and from the construction site. Locals were concerned that the barge would crush the reef on its way out to sea.

This concern came to fruition yesterday as the construction barge ran aground on the reef during a construction “pre-test”. The videos that have been released show the barge’s prop sputtering on near-exposed coral as it grinds across the bottom.

Notwithstanding, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) insists that sustainability is the “heart of the Paris 2024 project” — locals are not convinced.

One Tahitian man who worked on the original judging tower said the following regarding the integrity of the “old” foundation: “I guarantee you that all technical specifications have been respected. 20 years later, foundations are still intact. I can affirm with certainty, that building fifty-six new holes represents a considerable risk to the coral reef.”

Matahi Drollet, in a video posted six days ago, says that the IOC is basing their actions on a study conducted by experts alleging that the construction will not damage the reef, but Matahi claims that the IOC has refused to show locals the study, despite “hundreds of requests”.

“Doesn’t make sense to need such a giant tower for a 2-day event one time,” said Kelly Slater in a comment on Matahi’s post, “give the money to local infrastructure in the town for all the damage done from changing the river that caused floods earlier this year. The judges can get on that tower. Or rebuild the frame on same footing.”

“This doesn’t seem worth it,” commented Carissa Moore, who is set to compete at Teahupo’o for the Olympics.

If Instagram comments are the arbiter of public opinion, then the public has been calling for certain surfers to “boycott the Olympics” and not compete if the IOC doesn’t relent in their plans to build the tower. Many commenters are accusing professional surfers of not reposting the videos due to pressure from the Olympics themselves — but this is merely speculation.

What we do know is that if surfers did declare a boycott of Olympic surfing it would, obviously, have massive ramifications — not the least of which being a lot of lost cash in the form of evaporated endorsement deals

Tomorrow, locals will gather together and swim out to the endangered reef to — yet again — raise awareness for the cause.

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