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22 Jul 2019 7:31
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  •   Home > News > International

    Tahiti wants to host the surfing competition for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games

    It might be on the other side of the world to Paris, but French Polynesia intends to put its hand up to hold the surfing competition in Tahiti for the 2024 Olympic Games.

    It might be on the other side of the world to Paris, but French Polynesia intends to put its hand up to hold the surfing competition for the 2024 Olympic Games.

    After deciding this month that the event would be held in the ocean rather than an artificial wave pool, France is on the lookout for a stretch of beach to play host to some of the best surfers in the world.

    Despite being located almost 16,000 kilometres away in the Pacific Ocean, the overseas territory of French Polynesia would like to be considered for the job.

    French Polynesia's President Edouard Fritch was quoted in local media as saying the islands had "strength and experience" in international surfing competitions, as well as a "great sensitivity to the environment".

    Local media reported that the main island of Tahiti would be put forward as the proposed location.

    So what does Tahiti have going for it, and what are its chances of snagging a piece of the Olympic action?

    It's got some of the world's best waves

    "It's got one of the sketchiest and most exciting waves in the world," said Nick Carroll, a senior reporter with Surfing World Magazine.

    The reef break, called Teahupo'o, is known for producing waves up to 7 metres high and is one of the competition sites on the World Championship Tour.

    Mr Carroll said the island of Tahiti has several sites that would be suitable for the Olympics.

    "There's plenty of other surf around the island, the water temperature's incredible, there's coral reefs, there's beautiful beaches, it's every bit as Tahitian as you could imagine," he said.

    It could benefit the French team

    "There are a couple of superb surfers in that team who come from various French ex-colonies," Mr Carroll said.

    That includes Jeremy Flores, who grew up on the island of Reunion and won the competition at Teahupo'o in 2015.

    Michel Bourez, currently ranked number 13 in the Men's World Championship Tour, was also born and raised in Tahiti.

    "I imagine it'll be mostly a plus for the French team, so maybe that's another factor," Mr Carroll said.

    It could cut down on waste

    "Every time the Olympics happen they seem to make all these new things and the Olympics leave town and the structure is used but maybe a little bit disused," Ian Portingale, head coach of the Fiji Surfing Association, said.

    The idea of holding different competitions in vastly different parts of the world is new to the Olympic Games, but would mean France could make use of the infrastructure already in place in Tahiti from previous surfing championships.

    The event could also attract more tourists from the region — it's a much closer flight for hopeful spectators from Australia.

    But not so fast…

    Tahiti is far from the only option France has for the surfing competition. There's plenty of good surf much closer to home on the country's south coast.

    "That time of year, August, September, is a great time in places like Biarritz and Hossegor," Mr Carroll said.

    "They could just as easily do it there within a quick train ride of Paris, so that will probably play into their thinking a bit I suspect."

    The sport has been provisionally approved for the Paris Games by the International Olympic Committee, along with breakdancing, sport climbing, and skateboarding, in an attempt to attract a younger generation of spectators and viewers.

    But there's still a chance surfing could be scrapped from the 2024 program if the competition flops when it debuts in Tokyo next year.

    "It's got to get successfully through the 2020 Olympics to even keep having the discussion," Mr Portingale said.

    "At the end of the 2020 Olympics if the Olympic Committee says 'no, that was a waste of time' because of viewers, because of spectators or whatever, then the chance of getting it in 2024 or 2028 are obviously harder."


    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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