Work to resume at Tahiti's legendary Olympic surfing site after uproar over damage to coral reef

PARIS (AP) — Organizers of the Paris Olympics say work will resume this week to prepare the surfing venue in Tahiti, after an uproar over damage to a coral reef put efforts on hold.

Teahupo'o is famed on the surfing circuit for its big waves, but fierce concerns in Tahiti for marine life have proven to be a challenge for Olympics organizers as they head into 2024, less than 230 days out from the Summer Games.

Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris Olympics organizing committee, said Monday that preparations at Teahupo'o will start again this week. The resumption comes after the president of French Polynesia, Moetai Brotherson, held talks with groups on the island that are concerned about plans to build a tower for surfing judges and television cameras in the Teahupo'o lagoon, fearing it will damage the coral reefs.

Work stopped earlier this month at the site after coral was damaged during a test of a barge meant to transport the aluminum judging tower into the lagoon so it can be fixed onto planned concrete foundations.

The test “went very badly," Estanguet acknowledged.

A smaller barge has now been located “to not damage the coral,” and a route for it through the reef to the construction site will be found and marked out this week, he said.

Work to erect the tower should start by the end of the year so it will be operational for a surfing competition at Teahupo'o in May that will test the venue's readiness for the Olympics in July, Estanguet said.

“We welcome this progress,” he said.


AP coverage of the Paris Olympics:

John Leicester, The Associated Press