Surfing tower will be built, says Paris Games chief

PARIS: The controversial building of a tower to judge the surfing event at the Paris Olympics will go ahead despite the sport’s federation saying it is not required, chief organizer Tony Estanguet said on Wednesday.

A proposal made by the International Surf Association (ISA) to Paris 2024 organizers and the Polynesian government suggested the use of “live images shot from land, water and drones” to judge events at Teahupo’o on the French Pacific island of Tahiti.

However, Estanguet — president of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee (Cojo) — dismissed their offer as had Polynesian leader Moetai Brotherson.

“We respect the almost unanimous decision taken locally to continue with the launch of the construction work,” he said at his end-of-year press conference at Cojo headquarters.

Estanguet, 45, explained the option offered by the ISA had been studied and found wanting.

“It was judged to be not feasible on several fronts,” said the three-time canoeing Olympic champion.

“On the technical front in terms of filming the images but also surrounding security it poses a lot of questions.”

Etienne Thobois, director general of Paris 2024, said it was a matter of urgency to get the work underway.

Brotherson has programmed that the work should be finished on the new aluminum tower by May 13, in time for a World Surf League (WSL) event seen as a dress rehearsal for the Olympics.

“Five months before the test events, eight months out from the Games themselves it is imperative we take a step forward,” he said.

Questions over the tower have been posed since a construction barge used to install a new judges’ tower in the sea broke through part of a colorful coral reef during technical testing in December.

Work was subsequently suspended by the Polynesian government with French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera claiming the test had been “badly prepared.”

The issue has had environmentalists up in arms and an online petition against the project has attracted more than 228,000 signatures.

Estanguet also took issue with World Athletics president and chief organizer of the 2012 London Games Sebastian Coe’s claim on Monday the tickets for the Games — which run from July 26 to August 11 — are expensive.

Coe’s concerns echoed that of many, not just the general public but also those involved in the sporting world, who have criticized the pricing.

“We have to accept for all sorts of reasons that Paris will be the most expensive Games both for the international federations but also for the fans,” said Coe.

Estanguet, though, hit back claiming they were within the same price range as London and Tokyo in 2021, though, barely any spectators were able to watch events due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Whether it was London or Tokyo more recently, tickets were £20 ($25), which taking into consideration inflation is 27 euros ($30), and the highest price they were £725 so a bit more than 1000 euros in today’s prices,” said Estanguet.

More than 7.6 million tickets have already gone on sale for the Paris Games. The cheapest are €24, but others, notably for athletics can cost as much as €990.

The largest amount still available are for the football, which takes place in stadiums throughout France.

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