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Paris Olympics defies critics, controversial surfing tower construction proceeds

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Paris 2024 chief organiser Tony Estanguet has announced that the construction of a tower to judge the surfing event at the upcoming Olympics will push forward, despite opposition from both the International Surf Association (ISA) and environmentalists.

The ISA proposed an alternative approach, suggesting 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 dismissed this offer on Wednesday, stating that it was deemed “not feasible on several fronts,” particularly concerning technical challenges in filming and security concerns.

At the end-of-year press conference, Estanguet emphasized the importance of respecting the local decision to proceed with construction, even in the face of widespread criticism.

Polynesian leader Moetai Brotherson supported the decision, scheduling the completion of the controversial aluminum tower by May 13, just in time for a World Surf League (WSL) event considered a dress rehearsal for the Olympics.

The tower project has faced scrutiny since a construction barge damaged part of a vibrant coral reef during technical testing in December.

This incident prompted the Polynesian government to temporarily suspend the work, with French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera criticizing the poorly prepared test.

The environmental impact has sparked outrage, leading to an online petition against the project, which has garnered over 228,000 signatures.

In addition to environmental concerns, criticism has extended to the cost of tickets for the Paris Games, with World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and chief organiser of the 2012 London Games expressing reservations. Coe argued that the tickets are expensive, echoing widespread sentiments from the public and sporting community.

Estanguet defended the pricing, asserting that Paris 2024 falls within the same range as London and Tokyo in 2021, despite the limited spectators due to Covid-19 restrictions.

While the cheapest tickets are priced at 24 euros, some, particularly for athletics events, can cost as much as 990 euros. With over 7.6 million tickets already on sale, the debate over affordability and environmental impact continues to shape the narrative surrounding the upcoming Olympics.

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