Olympics-ISA welcomes pause in controversial surf tower construction

(Reuters) - The International Surfing Association (ISA) has welcomed a pause in preparations for the construction of a judging tower for the Paris Olympics surfing competition in Tahiti after local opponents said a barge had damaged coral near the contest site.

A video posted on Instagram on Saturday by Save Teahupo'o Reef, a coalition of locals, surfers and environmental NGOs, appeared to show a barge stuck on the reef, along with broken coral and its damaged propeller.

"The ISA was saddened and surprised to see that a test undertaken by the French Polynesian government resulted in the coral reef at Teahupo’o being damaged by a barge," the ISA said in a statement on Wednesday.

"From the beginning of the proposal to host Olympic surfing in French Polynesia, the ISA has always insisted that the protection of the natural environment in Teahupo'o is a priority.

"This vision was agreed and is shared by all parties. The French Polynesian government has taken the decision to pause all further testing and preparations to draw lessons following the incident on the reef.

"The ISA welcomes this decision, and has urged intensified consultations to consider all available options."

The IOC did not respond immediately to a request for comment outside normal business hours.

In October, residents of Teahupo'o protested plans by Games organisers to build a 14 metre aluminium tower that would allow up to 40 people watch, film and judge the surfing at a famed break in front of the village.

Organisers, including Paris 2024 and the French Polynesia government, said last month they had decided that building a smaller, lighter tower on the site was the best option, allowing for smaller equipment to install it but still requiring new foundations in the reef.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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