Tahitians, Pro Surfers Slam Olympics Decision to Replace Timber Tower

The wooden judging tower will be replaced by a massive aluminium tower amid concerns over coral.

Thu 23 Nov 23


Over 165,000 people have signed a petition opposing the construction of a massive 14-metre aluminium judging tower for the Paris Olympic Games surfing competitions.

The petition, led by global conservationists, alleges that the new tower will damage the Tahiti coral beyond repair. 

Instead, they want organisers to reuse the wooden tower installed for the World Surfing League (WSL) competitions. 

They have the backing of several international pro-surfers who have expressed concerns that the tower will cause damage to the waves.

Earlier this week, the Paris 2024 Games Organising Committee agreed to reduce the size of the aluminium towe following a flyover by Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet.

However, locals are still unhappy the wooden tower will be replaced, expressing concerns that the new tower will “clear out the coral reef ecosystem that surrounds the wooden tower with a floating drill device.”

Courtesy Matahi Drollet, Instagram.

They claim that the Olympic Committee has “falsified the environmental assessment” to get the plan approved and that the “new plan will kill endangered marine life and coral structures.”

The decision to host the competitions on the Tahiti Surf Beach, in the French overseas territory of Polynesia, is a controversial one.

The French Atlantic Coast is home to some of Europe’s best beaches; however, the games opted to include France’s overseas territories in recognition of their historic power as a European colonial force.

It will be the longest distance for a Games event from the host city, surpassing the 15,000 kilometres between Stockholm and Melbourne in 1956 for the equestrian events.

However, the plan to build a giant tower in the iconic surf spot has sparked fierce local resistance. 

Moetai Brotherson, President of French Polynesia – which includes more than 100 islands, including Tahiti – has pushed for a different competition location without needing a tower.

In a statement published earlier this month, organisers rejected the idea of ditching the “iconic” surfing spot. Instead, they agreed to meet with the Brotherson’s government to build “a more moderate” tower.

Paris 2024 Organising Committee President Tony Estanguet claims that the committee “reopened the issue a few weeks ago to see how it could improve and respond to concerns and expectations from the local competition.”

“Various options are still being worked on by engineers, local authorities and the Polynesian government responsible for building the tower,” he said.

Last month, Wood Central reported that eight months before the 2024 Olympic Games begins, Paris organisers are entering the final straight of a marathon, which has seen all but one of the 35 venues upcycled for the games.

Significantly, 95% of the venues in Paris itself will be existing or temporary, with only the athletes’ village and aquatics centre constructed from scratch (both from timber).

Under French law, all new public buildings must use timber as their primary building material.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


Related Articles