France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera on Thursday ruled out any move of Olympic surfing events away from Tahiti after environmental damage occurred during tests last week.
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Questions about the suitability of having the French Pacific island host the competitions were raised after work was put on hold following the damage done to the coral reef at Teahupo’o.
On Friday, a construction barge used to install an aluminium judges’ tower in the sea, supposed to reach a height of 14 metres (46 feet), broke more of the beach’s corals in a new test.
French Polynesia President Moetai Brotherson later questioned whether events could go ahead at the site, while officials from two locations on mainland France — 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 the surfing away from Tahiti.
“No, there’s no Plan B,” she told reporters. “We’re on this path which is really the right one.”
“We’re on the right path to have a new, resized judges’ tower” that corresponds to “requests made by locals” she added.
In mid-November, the organisers and the Polynesian government revised their plans with a lighter tower project in order to “limit environmental damage”.
The International Surfing Federation (ISA) has welcomed the decision to suspend the work.
Oudea-Castera acknowledged, however, that the test was less than satisfactory.
“There was a test that was obviously not well prepared and could not be conducted properly,” she said. “And unfortunately it damaged bits of coral, which is obviously completely regrettable.”
“The next test must be meticulously prepared,” she said.
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