drilling work will begin on the Olympic surfing site in Tahiti

2023-12-19 15:43:45

In Tahiti, after weeks of protests and delays, work on the site of the Olympic surfing event, in Teahupoo, has resumed. A test, with barges to access the location of the future tower where the judges will be installed during competitions, took place two days ago. If a little coral has been affected, this is not likely, according to a source familiar with the matter, to call into question the start of drilling operations for laying the foundations of this tower: these must begin in the night (here in mainland France) from Wednesday 20 to Thursday 21 December.

The timetable has been marked out, the State, which must finance half of the 4.4 million euros that the tower will cost, having very close monitoring of this file: the drilling and the construction of the foundations of the tower must be carried out by the end of January-beginning of February, with the assembly of the structure at sea expected to follow by April 2024. If, theoretically, the drilling work should only take a month, local weather conditions could however impose a longer time, up to three months.

The construction of this judges’ tower is contested locally by environmentalists. The latter deplore the replacement of the old wooden tower, traditionally used for surfing events at Teahupoo, but considered extraordinary in terms of safety by the Olympic Committee. It is an aluminum structure, which must be put in place, requiring heavy work which, according to them, risks harming the environment.

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The option of another site is not completely excluded

An accident that occurred on 1is December, when the barge planned for the work hit the coral while trying to reach the location planned for the tower, caused great tension. The work had been stopped and an investigation into this environmental damage had been opened by the Papeete public prosecutor’s office. After a long meeting, on December 10, with local associations, the Polynesian president, Moetai Brotherson, had however confirmed that the surfing event would take place at Teahupoo in summer 2024.

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Given the opposition, the Games Organizing Committee (Cojop) redefined its tower project: compared to the initial version, it is a model smaller in size (150 m2, like the old wooden tower) and in weight (9 tonnes instead of 14 tonnes), which was retained. This should make it possible, according to its promoters, to “reduce the drilling depth of the foundations and use a barge with a shallower draft for the work”.

The schedule, which has been defined for the work, should lead to having a functional tower in May 2024. The objective is that the stage of the World Surf League world tour can serve as a test before the event games.

However, depending on what happens in the coming weeks, the possibility that the surfing event will not take place in Teahuppo, but will have to be relocated to another site, is not completely ruled out. This option remains open, according to someone familiar with the matter, who adds that the deadline for having to make such a change is at the beginning of spring 2024: by Easter, we should therefore be definitively fixed on the place where the competition will take place.

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