Our entertainment is not worth the reef’s irreversible potential damage
The 2024 Summer Olympics in France are set to endanger both the environment and local communities.

The 2024 Summer Olympics are happening in Paris, France, scheduled from July 26 to August 11, 2024. Sports that will be taking place include but are not limited to, archery, artistic swimming, artistic gymnastics, surfing, triathlon, volleyball, and water polo. 

The Olympics originated in Ancient Greece, but it was not until the 19th century that it was revived into the modern Olympics that we know and enjoy. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) oversees the control and development of the modern Olympics. The IOC has many responsibilities, which include “maintaining the regular celebration of the Olympic Games, seeing that the Games are carried out in the spirit that inspired their revival, and promoting the development of sports throughout the world.”

It was not until 1994 that the Summer and Winter Olympics were held alternatively every two years. All the past Summer Olympics, as well as this year’s Summer Olympics, have included sports both on land and in water, including swimming, basketball, rowing, table tennis, and the triathlon. However, there have been issues associated with the Olympics throughout history, such as doping and drug testing, which have come to prominence recently.

As it has been in the past, the 2024 Summer Olympics is a major event that many people are looking forward to attending and participating in. However, there are many people who plan on boycotting the Games due to worker exploitation that the French government has carried out. More specifically, there have been increased concerns regarding the location of the surfing venue, which will take place in Tahiti. French Olympic officials are planning on creating a surfing venue, which will destroy the reef in that area. 

This brings us to the question that we need to reflect on: should we be supporting the Olympics this year, or even in the future? 

To get a better understanding of the situation, we need to first know what Tahiti is, and why the environment is so important to protect from the inevitable destruction and damage that the building of the surfing venue will cause. 

Tahiti is the largest island of the Îles du Vent of the Society Islands, French Polynesia, and is located in the central South Pacific Ocean. The island is 1,043 square kilometres, accounting for almost one-third of the total land area of French Polynesia. 

BBC Sports has confirmed that there already is coral damage at the surfing venue in Tahiti, forcing construction to be on pause. Footage posted on social media by Save Teahupo’o Reef showed that a barge (a small boat) had gotten stuck on the reef near the contest site and broken the coral that was there. According to this source, “Surfing’s governing body confirmed that the French Polynesian government has paused all further testing and preparations to draw lessons following the incident on the reef.”

It should be noted that Teahupo’o, a village on the coast of Tahiti, is considered to have one of the best surfing waves in the world and has hosted events on the World Surf League’s championship tour for a long time. However, the judges’ tower was long made up of wood. Locals say that the construction of “a much larger aluminum tower to allow up to 40 people to watch, film, and judge the surfing at the Games would damage the coral.” 

Despite concerns raised by locals regarding the inevitable damage that has and will be done to the reefs, the organizers of the 2024 Summer Olympics “remain committed to hosting the Olympic surfing event at its planned site in Tahiti, 9,500 miles away from the Games in Paris.” 

Georgina Seal, an environmental commenter for the publication Mongabay, has pointed out that any damage done to the reef was avoidable. Many people, including Parisians and residents of Tahiti, have criticized the environmental impacts that the surfing venue’s construction has on the town and bay of Teahupo’o. There has been a group of “fishermen, farmers, surfers, and citizens of Teahupo’o [who] have started a petition and have held at least one protest in hopes of forcing Olympic organizers to change their plans.”

Regarding this situation, there are those in favour of boycotting the Olympics this year to bring awareness to the inevitable damage that construction will have on the environment. The Games can always be held another time, but damage to the environment, especially coral reefs, is usually irreversible. This brings us to a great concern: should we even hold the Olympics as we have historically done by building new venues and infrastructure, due to the impact that such rapid construction has on the surrounding environment and its people? 

Some people may express that boycotting the entire Games may not demand the same effect of urgent change as single events would. Perhaps it would be better to boycott certain events, such as surfing, that take place in environments that are sensitive to damage. Or should the construction itself be modified to encourage the use of more eco-friendly materials? Should such events be moved to other locations while the Olympics itself is ongoing? Should we investigate past venues where surfing has taken place and have the event take place there? 

As Seal has pointed out, the “Olympic Committee has made a final decision to continue with the building of the new aluminum tower, with some modifications. The surface area of the tower will be 25 per cent smaller than the original plans, making it the same size as the existing wooden tower.”

Locals have expressed unhappiness with this decision and have denounced not only the impact of the tower itself but also “the effects of the transportation barges that travel across the coral reef, bringing equipment and supplies to the building site.” 

Despite multiple protests, the Olympic Committee decided to continue with the inevitable destruction of the surrounding environment in Teahupo’o, and as demonstrated in the past, will continue to encourage such destruction of the environment of the host countries to ensure entertainment and enjoyment. In the end, we need to ask ourselves an important question: what do the Olympics truly stand for, and are they worth the increasing monetary, environmental, and human costs? 


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