No alternative to Olympic surfing in Tahiti, says French minister

Photo: World Surf League

France’s Minister for Sport, Amelie Oudea-Castera, on Thursday ruled out the possibility of moving the Olympic surfing events away from Tahiti following the environmental damage caused during testing last week.

After work was halted following damage to the coral reef at Teahupo’o, questions were raised about the suitability of the French Pacific Island to host the events.

On Friday, a construction barge used to install an aluminium judges’ tower in the sea, which was to reach a height of 14 metres (46 feet), broke more of the coral on the beach during a new test.

The President of French Polynesia, Moetai Brotherson, later questioned whether events could go ahead at the site, while officials from two sites on the French mainland – Lacanau on the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux, and La Torche, further north in Brittany – both said they could welcome the event.

But Oudea-Castera rejected the idea of moving surfing away from Tahiti.

“No, there is no plan B,” she told reporters. “We’re on this path, which is really the right one.”

“We’re on the right track to have a new judges’ tower” that is “in line with the wishes of the locals”, she added.

In mid-November, organisers and the Polynesian government revised plans for a lighter tower to “limit environmental damage”.

The decision to suspend work was welcomed by the International Surfing Federation (ISA).

But Oudea-Castera admitted that the test was not satisfactory. “There was a test that was obviously not well prepared. It was not done properly,” she said. “And unfortunately, it damaged pieces of coral, which is obviously very unfortunate.” “The next test will have to be meticulously prepared,” she said.