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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Hatch

Are We Really So Enamored with Sporting Events that We Are Willing to Risk Our Oceans?

I want to share something with you about the summer Olympics you may not know.  In the late 1920s, athletes began campaigning for surfing to be added to the Olympic program.  It finally made a debut in the Tokyo 2020 games and will also be included at the Paris 2024 games.  Teahupo’o in Tahiti, a spot world renown to surfers, will be home to the 2024 Paris Olympics surfing competition.  Surfing events will take place over 4 days within a 9 days window, from 27 July to 4 August.

 

Seems amazing, but…

 

There are consequences many of us never consider.  Associated Press writer, Daniel Cole, writes:  “The decision to host part of the Games here has thrust unprecedented challenges onto a small community that has long cherished and strives to protect a way of life more closely connected to wild lands and crystal-clear ocean than the fame promised by an Olympic stage.” Definitely not your “average touristy area”, there’s not even one single surf shop in Teahupo’o!  The sole snack bar is only open for lunch and serves fish caught that morning.  Ocean breezes wafting the smell.  Waves crashing in the background. 

 

Can you picture it in your mind? 

Can you hear the waves? 

Smell the salt air? 

Feel the peace?

I can.

 

Back to the games.  The original Olympic proposal called for new roads and infrastructure, housing units and even a 9 ton judging structure that required drilling into the reef. A 9 ton structure to be used by 40 people involved in judging and televising the event for only FOUR DAYS.  A structure which will damage that reef in permanent and irrevocable ways. 



A worker inspects the permanent foundations being constructed on the coral reef for a judging tower to be used during the Olympic Games surf competition in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
A worker inspects the permanent foundations being constructed on the reed. AP Photo /Daniel Cole Jan 12, 2024)

Don't see a problem?



A worker inspects the permanent foundations being constructed on the coral reef for a judging tower to be used during the Olympic Games surf competition in Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
A worker inspects the permanent foundations being constructed on the reed. AP Photo /Daniel Cole Jan 12, 2024)


There are over 150 species of coral in French Polynesia according to Tahiti’s tourism board, and 1,000 species of fish that call the reef home.  Local fishermen fear that drilling into the reef could attract ciguatera, a microscopic algae that infects fish and makes people sick if eaten.  Many local families sustain themselves by what they catch in the ocean. 

 

There has already been damage. 

 


Protect th reef sign.  AP Photo /Daniel Cole Jan 12, 2024e)

Construction on the tower was suspended in December after a barge used by workers was stuck on the reef and damaged coral at the site.   Concerned about this, our ocean, and their way of life, many Tahitians staged a protest back in October.  A petition was started and currently has over 250,000 signatures. 


The International Surfing Association and World Surf League (based in Teahupo’o) have both proposed alternative ways of judging the competition.  These range from erecting a temporary wooden structure as they have done during previous competitions to judging the competition remotely, with live images shot from land, water, and drones.

 

The Olympic committee has dismissed all other options.  “While the solution of judging from footage may already have been used at other international surfing competitions, it was not feasible at Teahupo’o because it did not provide sufficient guarantees for refereeing, broadcast coverage and securing the water surface, given the specific characteristics of the site,” Paris 2024 said, adding that the proposal of using a temporary platform to install cameras was also rejected for “security reasons.”


In December 2023, the Olympic committee announced that while it will “scale back” the tower, they are still pressing forward.  By mid-January, two thirds of the drilling has been done and they are starting to lay the foundation blocks.  It is expected to be completed by 13 May. 

 

In response to criticism, now “98% of Olympic housing will be within the homes of locals, with athletes accommodated on a cruise ship anchored nearby.”  

 

Can we please ask what these ships are anchoring on to?

 

Are we going to stop the Olympics?  No.  We are not even suggesting that. 

Are we going to stop the tower from being built?  No.  It’s already well on its way. 

 

Are we going to sit back, shake our heads and our fists; lamenting merely to others in our circle who are already upset about this, and pretend that everything is okay?  Also, No. 

 

This is not a “surfing issue”.  This is not a “far away issue”.  


This is an ocean conservation issue.  It’s about the reef, its corals and marine life.   It’s about us too!  Now and in the future.  Did you know that half of the oxygen on Earth is produced by microscopic marine organisms called phytoplankton?  That means that every second breath you take comes from the ocean! 




DiverMojo Foundation is vehemently against the building of this structure and permanently damaging of our reef in any regard.  We will do everything within our power to ensure people are aware of the impact of these actions.  Please considering signing this petition and standing with the citizens of Tahiti voicing your opposition.

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