Next year’s Olympic surfing competition will be held in French Polynesia as planned, the regional president has said, declaring a blazing row between organisers, authorities and environmental groups to be over.
Polynesian leader Moetai Brotherson told AFP on Sunday that a meeting with environmental associations had yielded “a solution” allowing the contest to be held at Teahupo’o on the French Pacific island of Tahiti.
“The solution we managed to get adopted tonight will allow the Games to be held here,” he said.
Debate about the suitability of having the island host the competitions has made waves for weeks, reaching a high point early this month after a construction barge used to install a new judges’ tower in the sea, supposed to reach a height of 14 metres (46 feet), broke more of the beach’s corals during testing.
While criticizing the testing for being “not well prepared”, France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera still ruled out any relocation of Olympic surfing events, saying there was “no plan B”.
France’s Atlantic coast hosts some of Europe’s most famous surfing beaches and local officials had been hopeful of hosting the event.
When Tahiti was selected as the surfing site, dignitaries in coastal resorts in mainland France, such as Biarritz, were unimpressed –- not least because of the cost and the carbon emissions involved in putting a chunk of the Olympics on in the South Pacific.
Brotherson on Sunday presented a plan in stages for construction of the new aluminium tower which is to be completed by May 13, he said, in time for a World Surf League event seen as a dress rehearsal for the Olympics.
In mid-November, the organisers and the Polynesian government revised their plans in order for the new tower to be lighter to “limit environmental damage”.
The Summer Olympics’ surfing events are scheduled from July 27 to 30.
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